Saturday, December 12, 2009

Open letter to my senators

Misters Bennett and Udall,

While many democrats see the current health care "reform" as the best we can get and appear to jump on this bandwagon without looking over the song, the so-called reform that is currently being talked about is far from reforming anything. And if it makes health insurance mandatory, then the insurance companies have won-- big time. Even if the bill tries to force insurance companies to offer a lower costing insurance, they will still be the ones to profit from the added customer base while having the additional benefit of not having to cover as many people over the age of 55! And medicare costs will go through the roof with the weight of the additional numbers of older customers. This is a pro-business bill and is apparently all we can expect from Washington anymore but I for one am sick of corporate interests always coming out on top.

Vote no on this bill if there is no way to cut costs for medical care and if there is no reasonable option for healthcare for the working middle class.

(I posted this to their websites-- I don't expect them to read my blog.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Book search

"This religion and the Bible require of woman everything, and give her nothing. They ask her support and her love, and repay her with contempt and oppression. Every injustice that has ever been fastened upon women in a Christian country has been 'authorised by the Bible' and riveted and perpetuated by the pulpit."

Helen H Gardener 1853 - 1925

I am in search of this woman. Clearly she was ahead of her time and I would love to find more of what she wrote. I will post any findings!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

god

Perhaps it is the fundamentalist in me that screams: "You just make god up as you go along" Yet, is it not true that people perceive god to have the same "values" they have- view the same issues (i.e. gay rights or fetus "rights" or women's rights)with the same fervor and regard as they do? god never reveals something to them that goes counter to their cultural values... well, nothing important anyway.

In this same vein, it was ingenious for the church to move away from the priestly "this is who god is" to a personal god- one with whom you can have a personal relationship with. Without conceding that they no longer define who god is (and of course their sermons certainly wouldn't reflect that), people are given the idea that god speaks to them directly, personally. It's better than having a red line to the president! gives people a special feeling of importance!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy Birthday

There's no place like home, there's no place like home...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Magical nights

Under the shadowed outline of her canopy, the moon's full face blinks down on her. She winks in response, and lies back onto the carpet of pine needle. I watch her with held breath as she raises her hands slowly upward in silent homage to the Empress of the night. The faint ocean’s sigh echoes on my palm and my fingers tingle in remembered suspension. I only just stop myself from joining stereophonically, “ka—losor—isma-a-a-a, ka—losor—isma-a-a-a selene mana” The ancient words “welcome, welcome, moon mother” vibrate, an otherworldly iteration as familiar as a mother’s lullaby. I ex-and-inhale shallow breaths of anticipation. There is a lifetime of silence before the faint antiphony winds it’s way through the branches a second later “ka—losor—isma-a-a-a, ka—losor—isma-a-a-a selene mana” An earthbound star flitters in the distance, a lone celestial infant making it’s way through the trees. Like splitting molecules, one becomes two becomes four until a dozen tiny lights glimmer in the darkness, winding their way towards the girl as she chants out her greeting again. A final, single reply pulls the dimly lit figures to a halt, a human crescent cradling the reclining body. Their shadows elongate toward the still figure on the ground and their statuesque silhouettes shimmer with expectation.

Almost whispered, the girls voice fuses with the night’s murmurings then crests over the wave’s gentle sigh: “—losorisma selene mana… Moon mother. I call you by name to honor your presence among us: Selene, Khonsu, Diana, Bendis, Maou, Luna the sacred heart of all Mothers…”

A solo voice takes the cue and sweeps the women off into a melody that sweeps up and down the scale:
Thy beauty haunts me heart and soul,
Oh, thou fair Moon, so close and bright;
Thy beauty makes me like the child
That cries aloud to own thy light:
The little child that lifts each arm
To press thee to her bosom warm.

Though there are birds that sing this night
With thy white beams across their throats,
Let my deep silence speak for me
More than for them their sweetest notes:
Who worships thee till music fails,
Is greater than thy nightingales.*



*The Moon by William Henry Davies

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Place

Sometimes place, like Macondo the village in "one Hundred Years of Solitude," takes on a character of it's own. It has a life that transcends a house or a family or even a heritage. It is more than a communal dwelling where the inhabitants greet each other at the grocery store or hang out at the local coffee shop and gossip. The place becomes a character with as much life as the people who live there. Magical things happen that can't quite be explained and events in the "real" world seems as distant as shots of Neil Armstrong taking a walk on the moon. You can write about this place and you can dream of it, but you'll never completely capture the essence of the place that is beyond time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Winter wonder--what?

The couple seemed to belong together, a pair that had grown to look alike the way dog's begin to look like their owners. I watched as they drove up to my little car. (And when I say car-- I mean it in the broadest sense of the word. It's really closer to a skateboard with a motor is somewhat... sorta... affectionately called Rusty-ol'-Bastard... or Bucket-of-Bolts when I am really peeved with it. Since both ROB and BOB are derivatives of Robert they are fairly interchangeable, I guess. But I digress...)

Her accent was thick, only moderately mimicking english. "You need a jump?" was how it translated with the added signals that I was sitting in ROB with the hood open and a hopeful set of jumper cables at the ready.

"That would be great!" The kindness of strangers is always surprising but nevertheless welcome when it's 22 degrees, a smothering snow is falling and tromping around my car means wading in icy waters. "But I don't know how your going to get to where my battery is."

The man, with an equally dense accent, leaned out of the window. "Push it out."

Oh right! I'll just give it a little shove! I smirk inwardly. But before I can form any audible protest or objection, the elderly woman (is 60something elderly??) has jumped out of the incredibly American fully-loaded 4x4 Ford truck to position herself in front of my car. "You go..." she signals for me to get the car out of gear or steer or something. I swim over to the driver's side of the car, double check the break and gear so they will not prevent any attempts at moving it and position my feet so that I can pull while she pushes. We rock the car a moment or two and I sense the car relaxing and preparing for a nap. I was all prepared to tell her a regretful "thanks but no thanks" when another man exiting the grocery store sees our efforts and runs around to the front of the damn Bucket of Bolts to help. He digs in and gives us the impetus we needed to back the car out from between the two autos that sat silently grinning at our efforts.

"Thanks!!" I am again speechless with the kindness of the random good deed that occurs out in the big, bad, scary world. The man waves and jumps in his car and takes off, leaving me in the "helpful" hands of my new Russian friends.

At this moment, it suddenly occurs to me that the woman's husband is sitting cozily in the cab of the truck, watching our attempt to get the car out of the parking space, but I'm too intent on getting the car going to really give any serious thought-- sick? handicapped? The man's door opens and he lowers himself down to the ground, signalling something to his little wife. Hmmm... not handicapped...

Raise the hood. Get the jumper cables on the battery. "red negative, black positive" I say over my shoulder.

He attaches the cables to his battery and signals that I should jump in the car to start it. A miniature fireworks display goes on under the hood of ROB. A second later he holds up a melted cable line and the clamp falls into the snow. "Broken!" He looks at me expectantly like a child saying "you broke it!"

Right! Well, now we know what happens when you don't connect the cables positive to positive, negative to negative. Go in get new cables from King Soopers (Thank god King soopers believes in having a little bit of everything!). Rush back out to the waiting couple-- wait! waiting woman. No sign of her husband.

I hand her the cables thinking her husband will appear to connect the cables and I can start the car. "You connect" she says after unraveling them and quickly giving them back.

Okay, I'm a modern woman. I can take care of myself and if they don't mind my touching their truck, then I can make sure we don't burn through another set of cables. Connect red to red, black to black (Their battery is actually color coded- mine is not. Thus the confusion??? Maybe?? Whatever the problem, sparks are a bad thing.) Touch my clamp to the battery. No sparks-- shew. Engine starts. SHEW!!!

"Thanks so much for your help!" I give the pedal another nudge to ensure the car does't give up it's fingerhold on life again.

"It starts?" She peers under the hood surprised.

"Yup! We can take these off." now I can get out of here! I pull off the cables and wrench the hood shut. She waves over toward the dimly lit sidewalk where her husband stands... waiting... out of the snow and slush...?

He tromps over and peers in the car. "It works?"

"It works," I nod and give the engine a little gas to prove it's capable of a producing sound. "Thanks so much for your help!"

"Sure, sure" he nods and waves. I begin backing out of the spot we'd angled the car into and turn just in time to see the man lift his foot toward his wife. She bends down and brushes at his shoe and adjusts the King Soopers bag that apparently shields his foot from the damp. He stands erect and quiet, a hand gently on the woman's bent shoulder to balance himself, offended at the elements, proud of his sacrifice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Strong words

If I wrote down all the abuses of my childhood, you, dear reader would say something like: "I'm so sorry that happened to you. What a terrible thing! I guess I was lucky." Well, you were. But that aside, my story is just one in a million. Perhaps one in a billion. There are many, MANY other women who were and are being raised in homes where religious fundamentalism is the way that life is ordered. Many of them would read my blog and become angry- defend their upbringing and their faith. Some of them would try and cajole me into believing that they are happy and their faith gives them a better life. I am not going to argue with someone who has been fed lies by the people that a woman loves and trusts the most and I have no animosity toward such a person.

But I would and do argue with those that have chosen to hold their faith more lightly, to have it be a peripheral part of their existence all the while ignoring the abuses that occur in the guise of god's love. Let's not talk about the actual documented abuses of the church: priests who bugger boys, pastors who have affairs with women they are counseling, church leaders who rile their congregation up to such an extent that they will vote against the actual human rights of another. Those issues we all look at and shake our heads, a little confused by the extremes and helpless to know how to change it.

No, I am talking about the more subtle, personal abuses that occur in the guise of trying to live according to a book that originated two thousand years ago and has been modified by thousands of theologians to try and keep it relevant so that they can maintain their religious structures. What this produces on an individual level-- on a family to family to family basis, is a delicate system of maltreatment that goes on without so much as a pause by onlookers. To please god, missionaries will move to rugged and dangerous parts of the world, and then put their children in boarding schools, thus abdicating their responsibilities as parents and is plainly and simply neglect. To fulfill the mission for "love" and "forgiveness", people will leave their children among family members who are abusive-- sometimes physically but even sexually. So that they can be righteous, they will follow the co-called moral "guidelines" of the church and turn their back on their own children if they are gay. Or worse they'll put them in a program to "fix" them. In the name of religious purity and piety, honor killings occur at a frightening rate.

And these are still the more overt and obvious abuses that occur--. And once again, you can shake your head at the extremities, feeling a bit helpless and concerned. But here's the reality: these extremists are protected-- shielded by their less zealous counterparts.

But we have not even begun to talk about how all mainstream religions maintain a patriarchal system that destroys even the most cherished of daughters. When god is a man (and god is always a man), there is simply no way to keep from raising your little girls without a sense of alienation and strangeness. Before the little one even begins to form Personhood, she is given an innate sense of her own devaluation. And boys... well, what are they not entitled to having been made in god's own image? And if, as a boy, you don't meet the standard of the cultural code for what god expects you to be... (i.e. gay) then you really are not worth much more than a woman. And let's not even talk about lesbians!

I don't care how well intentioned you are. When you look the other way at the kind of abuse that is committed in the name of religion ( and it doesn't matter what religion you are talking about), you are part of that system. And whatever small amount of good you receive from your occasional spiritual massage, you are getting it with blood on your hands as surely as the extremists who commit the actual act.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Quantum gods

Some years ago, I watched the movie "What the bleep do we know?" and was interested in it like many were. In the past few weeks I have been doing a lot of research on quantum physics for a project I have been working on ("Death and Politics at the end of the World"). I began by reading the Einstein biography that I blogged on some time ago and moved from there to listening to a lecture series presented by Richard Wolfson. I also read "Quantum: a guide for the perplexed" by Jim Khalili. I've learned a great deal about the world of the quantum-- not that I am now ready to give a lengthy lecture on it, but as I read, it became clear that some of the science that was used to make the movie seemed legitimate but was-- well fuzzy at best, wrong is closer but probably it is more accurate to say that the presenters were inaccurately making statements to purposefully mislead (i.e. lying). I went about my research the long way (for a purpose), there is a new book out called "Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness" which deals with this topic more extensively. I think it will be on my Christmas list!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Our lord and savior

So I've thoroughly debunked the O.T.-- (well, okay maybe I have sketched it...) shown how the stories of Abraham and Isaac were concocted to give the hill people the deed to the land they were inhabiting. I have revealed that there is no evidence for King David or Solomon-- that they are never mentioned in ancient documents and the first king of Israel who is actually documented is King Omri-- the father of Ahab. And the fact is that if David and Solomon were as important as the bible claims they were, they would be mentioned by someone of that period.

So, no King David? Then no Davidic lineage for the spiritual guru who supposedly entered the scene during the reign of Caesar Augustus in 3 b.c.e... ish. But if there was such a man, it can be confidently assumed that he wasn't the same man the pastor speaks about on easter morning.

The documents that exist seem to point to a Teacher who was either a part of or part of a sub group of the Zealots-- a rebel group that came to a bad end when the rebellion did finally catch Rome's attention in 70 A.D. And that is what most scholars think the evidence points to.

The stories in the N.T.? Well, once again, man meets myth.

Joseph Campbell has done the most comprehensive and impressive work on the Monomyth: stories that are universal and timeless-- the hero's journey. In them a "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man." The name of the hero is unimportant. What is significant is the need to recall the hero in different stories that are told in different cultures and at different times for essentially the same purpose. So Jesus... Dionysus... Buddha... Mohammed... Moses... all essentially the same character with a new name, new setting and different details to the story. What is perhaps most significant is that the stories are predated to Egyptian mythology, once again, and one can see connections with the Jesus myth in the story of Osiris who was also raised from the dead.But what happens when we change myth into history? Joseph Campbell said "Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. The living images become only remote facts of a distant time or sky. Furthermore, it is never difficult to demonstrate that as science and history mythology is absurd. When a civilization begins to reinterpret its mythology in this way, the life goes out of it, temples become museums, and the link between the two perspectives becomes dissolved." ("The Hero With a Thousand Faces", Joseph Campbell, p. 249, Fontana, 1993)

Which brings us to those who completely agree with me that the bible is myth and is significant only in it's metaphor...

Why are they so disgruntled about my lack of belief in god? Why do so many "liberal" christians (or even New Agers) want to make an issue out of what an atheist believes or, in fact, doesn't believe? Why do so many liberal authors feel the need to write books like "The case for god" and "The evolution of god"? Having come from a fundamentalist faith and moved to a more liberal faith and then finally releasing the need to believe in any deity, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that my life is lived more in accord with what liberal theology purports to offer than it did when I was a bible thumper. And having witnessed the ethic most atheists live by, I can, with some degree of confidence, say that they do too. Christian mythology would try to convince everyone that Atheists are nihilists when in fact most are humanists and they try to better the world in some way. They are most often pacifists (although there is a spectrum on the issue of war), conservationists and they stand up against human rights violations.

This, supposedly, is what most liberal indoctinates believe they are supposed to be doing. Supposedly they are not terribly concerned with whether Jesus was born of a virgin or whether he died on the cross for sin. That is all metaphor... From my perspective, atheists and "liberal" christians are only centimeters apart in what they believe to be their role in the world (and most fundamentalists would agree with me whole heartedly by the way!). The bottom line seems to be about belief in god...

So maybe the fundamentalists are right-- that it's all about what you believe.

But if they're right about how important it is what you believe then they are probably right about all the other little issues that you think aren't important! And as such, you had better get your doctrine straightened out!!!

Aren't you worried??

(Fortunately I am not plagued with such fears).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Politics today...

Where to get the latest political information: Robert Reich's blog... remember him? He was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration and now teaches at the University of California (http://robertreich.blogspot.com). Another is Paul Krugman's "The Conscience of a Liberal" at http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/. His blogs can be highly technical when he is writing on economics, but I wade through it nevertheless because he is an expert on the field and I am still learning. For news: The Huffington Post website. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/Arianna Huffington hits the nail on the head with nearly every blow. And Firedoglake is walking the edge where progressive politics are concerned http://firedoglake.com/. And of course The Onion (http://www.theonion.com/) is always on the cutting edge of the latest in news and have their own special slant.

The internet is a wonderful thing as long as you are discerning about who you are listening to. If you don't, it's a deep and abyssmal pond of murky, scum-filled waters.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Egyptian book of life

I picked up a book yesterday that I thought was interesting but didn't finish it because I immediately realized that there were problems with it. The title sounded good "The Egyptian book of life". I look at the author's credentials and am a little leary but the fact that she has not had any official degrees in egyptology or ancient religions can be deceiving. So giving her the benefit of the doubt, I open the book, "The ancient Egyptians' concept of neteroo was similar to our own in that they, too, recognized primordial forces that govern all matter and can be unified as One." That is quite a statement on her part- she only has a few sketchy endnotes citing sources. Hmmm...

But she goes on... In the next paragraph, the author claims that ancient egyptians had stories the correlated to what scientists have since found evidence of: that life first evolved from primordial sludge. And how the Egyptians came to this scientific find? Well, they just knew, I guess. Or they had some innate knowledge that they carried within them... who knows?

And that was when I closed the book.

It is easy to spot an imposter. Her "credentials" were related to meditation and mantras-- spiritual exercises not religious studies. Never mind that her postulations have no basis in any archeological findings. She has one short paraphrased segment which she attributes to Zahi Hawass, (a story he tells of finding a tomb) Yet he is one of the foremost Egyptologists of our time! Ignoring him as a source for some of her more historic claims, she leaps to conclusions that are highly suspect because they have more to do with the "wisdom" she claims to dispense than it does with anything we really know.

Folks! Beware those that say what you want to hear in order to make money. They are like fortune tellers- they know how to say what people want to hear with the hopes that pocket books will also open. (Some time groovygrrl should tell us about her experience as a fortune teller. It's very entertaining!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why this is important

At the risk of sounding redundant, it is important to understand the inaccuracies of the holy books because there are too many people who live their lives according to said scripture in a public and political way. An obvious example (although I say obvious and yet it seems to be oddly obscure) would be the Jews claim to Israel. If the old testament is mytholgical then jews have no innate right to the land which they are currently fighting for. And it was wrong for the western powers to give them the land in the first place, let alone defend their right to take more property. So religious belief is not just personal and private. It affects public policy all over the world. And to ignore this is to condone the human rights violations that occur all over the world. And anything with that kind of influence on society has to be scrutinized closely.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

So here is what we know

You can either read the whole of Brueggeman's "Old Testament Theology" 777 pages(the other O.T. books I waded through won't be helpful) alongside Silberman and Finkelstein's "The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts" 400 pages and the somewhat dry and hard to explain 287 pages of "The early history of god" by Mark Smith or I can give you a Reader's Digest condensed, concise, and REALLY brief version:

The bible began to be documented sometime in 300 b.c.e. Verbal traditions surrounding the Davidic kingdom and the divided kingdoms probably began around 700 b.c.e. well after most of the events that supposedly took place in the bible even occurred. Some will argue that the oral tradition was a legitimate way of communicating real events, but historically throughout the world, oral tradition was simply a way of entertaining and explaining events in a chaotic world. Historical information was left to the kings and their courts-- after all, what did a small group of farmers care about the real world of politics? They were more interested in understanding why their crops would get destroyed in one night by locusts or why it didn't rain enough to keep the water levels at life supporting levels. In other words, they were more interested in life and death stuff, not politics (sound familiar?). And just like every other third world community, they explained these events via mythology about gods or god.

The first actual king that was mentioned in the bible that was also mentioned in public records (and they were keeping records fairly early on in Egypt and Assyria) was Omri, the father of the "evil" King Ahab. In reality, the only people who really thought Ahab was evil were the hill people that lived in the rural areas of southern Israel-- and it was with the hope of delegitimizing this "evil" king that an alternate reality was created --. A history was developed that explained why the little group that lived in the southern regions had suffered so much but also gave them a heritage that revealed their right to the land and god's favor. And they began their stories the way ALL ancient religions began them, from the beginning.

So, we start with how people came to be. *Poof* god made them out of dust with strands of some of the other regional ancient stories about creation still clinging to it's tail. Then the flood-- well, that had it's beginning in the Epic of Gilgamesh. It's a great story and would have entertained the people for many happy hours. Both stories originated much earlier and were tailored to fit the political aims of the "leaders" of the ragtag group down south. Abraham-- well, once again, if you want to explain how your particular group of people came to own a piece of land and why the conquering kingdoms that sweep in and out demanding tribute are evil and wrong, you develop a story whereby god gave you the land and the encroachers are enemies of your god. It is absolutely irrelevant that there never was an actual man named Abraham and it is meaningless that his sons never made a trek to Egypt, were enslaved and then eventually escaped the Pharoah's grasp, making a forty year trek through the desert. The point is that you have a mythology that unites your little people group to a common cause. And part of that cause explains the hows and whys of your claim to this little piece of property along the Mediterranean.

(If you ever want to get a flavor for story telling in the middle east, watch Michael Wood's documentary "In the footsteps of Alexander the Great." (1997) You get a real sense of the drama and showmanship that accompanies these ancestors of the middle eastern art of story- even today.)

The bible was shaped for a purpose and it wasn't with the intention of beginning a grand deception, it was simply a common custom of the ancient world. It is worthwhile understanding the intention of it's authors.

~Pictured: Shalmaneser III's (859-824 BC) Kurkh Monolith names King Ahab. Picture taken from Wikipedia.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Which truth is truth

Several comments I read this morning on gocomics.com commented on the bible. One in particular made the comment that christians cherry pick just what they want to believe is true in the bible or not. I think this is well worth noting as I continue down my path.

Fundamentalists believe that the "ten commandments" should be posted and followed as though they were the most profound writings of humankind's history. They don't want evolution taught because it contradicts the creationist stories. They believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, had a short-lived ministry on earth, died and rose again so that each individual who believe in him can go to heaven after they die. Now if you said, "but the Jewish people were never in Egypt and never escaped to the desert and Moses was probably not even a real person" why doesn't that present a problem for the ten commandments? And if you point out that the earth is not 6000 years old and people did not appear on this planet looking like they do now-- well, you get the point. And Jesus is supposedly god's son but apparently only some of what he says is meaningful. The parts that make people feel good about the potential to go to heaven.

You can't cherry pick it. It is either god's word or it's not. And if it is, then there are questions that need to be answered. And if it is not, then what is the point of it? What morality can be derived from it?

Jesus had some interesting things to say about money and the poor--- but not even bible thumpers take those words seriously. And frankly Jesus might have been radical in a Roman world, but he's less radical than the hippies of the 70s. And if you really want to read radical stuff, then read some Karl Marx. Or just dip your toes in some Naomi Klein or Susan Jacoby! Now talk about radical!

Friday, October 16, 2009

I digress

But the Adam and Eve story is just a such a small part of the minutiea, I don't want to get too caught up in talking about that. So many believers don't really care if that particular story is literal or not...

So, moving on.

When I was attending Denver Seminary, I took Old Testament Archeology & Theology. I was sitting in class the first day with several large books in front of me which we were told we were going to have to read over the course of the first half of the course (about 6 weeks). Actually there were two sets of two and one large book, all on the theology of the O.T.

"I am going to assign segments of each of these books to you to read and your assignment will be to read and assemble a report that gives your fellow students some understanding of the portion you have read. In this way, rather than having each of you trying to digest the entirety of the books in front of you, we will have an understanding of the theology within the OT as it has developed in the last hundred years or so."

The man who stood before me looked as though he could be cast in Hollywood to play the classic intellectual. Small in stature, thick round glasses, it was clear that he had spent many hours hunched over old books that were generally regarded as incomprehensible to the average reader. He was, well as far as I know he still is, highly regarded among biblical scholars... at least conservative scholars. He has published several books and is frequently asked to speaking engagements where his knowledge of the Old Testament is unsurpassed. You can google him and find all the titles he has either authored or co-authored are.(Now having said that, I should point out that many christians regard the O.T. as the "old covenant" and generally don't understand why anyone bothers with it at all. So while he is highly regarded, he is not given the degree of respect that his cohort Craig Blomberg, Professor of New Testament at D.S., is given)

As he spoke about the massive tomes we were about to read, he said, "Since we have learned so much about biblical theology in the past hundred years, it is important to give you an overview of how theology has changed. The first author you will read (Gerhard Van Rad) wrote his book about 50 years ago and has some interesting things to say about the O.T. but since he was working on the assumption that the Old Testament is historically accurate, he is generally not used as a source for really understanding the theology of he Old Testament. The second author (Walther Eichrodt) wrote his a bit later and less determined to view the text from and historical perspective with one overarching theme, he nevertheless still clings to some historical context which makes his theological development interesting but difficult to hold on to without the historical aspect. Over the next 20-30 years after Eichrodt wrote his text, Old Testament studies were in disarray because we were learning more about the region and that the stories of the Old Testament could not be actual events that took place at the time they are proposed to have taken place. Many scholars moved away from Old Testament studies altogether and studied strictly the New Testament. However, the problem with that is that so much of the New Testament is bedrocked on the Old Testament and if you ignore it or diminish it's importance, then you fail to see the whole picture of the New Testament. In 2005 Walter Brueggemann, a professor of Old Testament studies at Columbia (he's since retired apparently) has done the most complete work on the Old Testament and the themes within it, but as you will see, he is fairly liberal in his doctrine and in fact, does not even seem to answer the question about whether god is even in the O.T. In other words, he speaks a lot about what the people of the O.T. believed about god but does not answer the question as to what god is saying in the Old Testament. It can be rather unsatisfactory but nevertheless, it really is the best work on the Old Testament in the past twenty years or so."

Well! Quite an introduction! I was stunned. I hadn't given the historical nature of the bible much thought-- beyond the average, you know... "well, when did dinosaurs exist?" and I guess I had been content with the answer, "Seven days didn't mean literally 7 days. God did it over time. You know, maybe a day there is like it is in other parts, a day is like a thousand years..." Sounded good to me!

So onward we pushed- wading through the difficult english translations of german authors who were attempting to connect the Old Testament with the New. (and I might add this was important! Jesus uses the O.T. throughout his ministry and the other N.T. writers use events in the O.T. to show how god had planned sending his son to save the world all along.) So a first little web of thought was spun "what if..."

Indeed, what if...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What is true?

So a responder to "Reason" (below) had this to say and ask: "You ask why God didn't communicate the truth of His interactions with ancient people. If He had, how would it be any more verifiable than the accounts that we have recorded in the Bible today? In other words, how would we know that it was historically accurate?"

I responded in the comment but had intended on writing a bit more about the historical inaccuracies in the bible so I thought I'd include her question.

The question is not an uncommon argument for those who take the historicity of the bible as "gospel" :)-- after all, they have been told over and over again that the bible is true, that god may not have left evidence but nevertheless it is Truth. (Well, the whole argument is far more complex and convoluted than that, but that is essentially the point.)

In "The fiction of the bible" I point out that the creation story as written in the bible is clearly not how the earth was created. For instance we KNOW that there were humans at least 4.4 million years ago. (see full story at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ardi-hominid-human-ancestor.) This immediately contradicts the biblical account that god created man and woman in his image. The human that we see in the picture (above and also taken from Scientific American) is not at all what people should have looked like if god made people the way you might make a cake or a craft project. And most evangelical christians patently reject the notion that there is a link between humans and chimpanzees.

Yet here it is. We have the skull.

Now if you reject science (except when you're sick and want the doctor to make you well-- especially those christians who see god's miraculous hand working through technology and modern medicine for healing. Then science it great!!!) then, no problem. This means nothing. But if you do understand that we can find out a great deal about the earth and ourselves through science, then this early ancestor of ours should raise a lot of questions.

He (or she) doesn't look like Adam (or Eve) to me.

But there's lots more of those kind of things to talk about so stick around...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

extra! extra!


Richard Dawkins, best known for his book 'The God Delusion' has a new book that is on display at Barnes and Noble. It's titled 'The Greatest Show on Earth'. Having given it a glimpse while browsing at my local bookstore, it appears to be another bestseller for one of the most pubblic faces of atheism and a collaborator on 'The Reason Project' (http://www.reasonproject.org/). His website http://richarddawkins.net is also worth visiting and if you click on the book title you will find a brief video posted there as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Traditionally

Traditions and ritual have great significance in life. That is one of the reasons that I began a blog on Christmas traditions-- because in the fast paced world that we live in, we often fail to include ritual in our lives. This is one purpose that religions serve (if you can call it serve) but even many churches have less and less of an understanding of how deeply people need ceremony and rites.

Sam Harris, in his book 'The end of faith' writes about the need for atheists to acknowledge this and goes on to state that meditation and solitude are also important for the spirit. The increase of wicken ceremonies and the study of ancient women's religions reflects this need for ritual, I believe. A book "Mother, daughter, sister, bride: rituals of womanhood' which I spotted on Amazon appears to contains many of these and Sue Monk Kidd also writes about rituals that she and many of her friends engage in in 'Dance of the dissident daughter'. The rituals that represent a passage from one stage of life to another are particularly powerful. Other rituals that simply note a new season or a special day add a uniqueness to life that differentiates one day from another.

As an example: a friend told me she grew up doing a snow dance. On the morning of the first snow, her family would jump out of bed, strip their clothes off and dance around the living room. I have no idea if they had special music, but it seems to me that adding a special song would make the ceremony stronger.

It's easier to use ceremonies that others have developed and nurtured but when a family creates it's own traditions that occur year after year, one generation to the next, the meaning becomes deeper and more meaninful.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reason again?

A recent commenter on my post "Reason" stated "God is a meaning larger than ourselves that creates a framework for the randomness that is life and death." I do not disagree with the comment, after all, death is the great unknown, the darkness that is beyond what we know, yet a fundamental fact of life (and for ancient people who died at the age of 45 or so it was even more so). And it is this fear of death that causes so many to cling to the hope of something or Someone in the BEYOND.

I was raised a Christian-- with the devil and hell as deeply ingrained upon my psyche as the idea of god. There was no doubt in my mind for most of my life, including adulthood, that some people would go to hell. But the more I pondered upon who exactly it was that was going to hell, the more ridiculous the afterlife seemed to be. After all, if christians are right (and they sincerely believe they are!) most of us who do not BELIEVE (and note that I am not saying that you have to be good or anything-- you simply have to believe) that jesus is the son of god, that he died for our sins, and will come again some day to save us all, then we, the ones who don't believe that exact line about Jesus, are ALL going to hell. And it is this fundamental fear that still streaks through most Americans, in particular, whether they actually go to a christian church or not. And it is this same fear that the church, as stated in the article I quoted from the Telegraph in my post "Reason" that church leaders hope to capitalize on.

And as far as "the randomness of life" well, I will say that on the most fundamental level-- the quantum level life is random and that is difficult to understand. In fact it is the very randomness of life that seems to keep life on any kind of stable ground. For example: if electrons spun around the nucleus the way they should according to classical physics, the atom would not exist. It would collapse. But because the orbit of the electron is random, the atom is sable. And the atom is the fundamental building block of all life. Even Einstein struggled with the randomness that quantum physics revealed yet his belief did not change the facts of quantum physics. He was a genius, yet he was wrong fundamentally about the randomness of the universe.

Finally, to the idea that believing in god makes people better or gives them meaning that might give them a greater purpose as seemed to be implied in that statement (although if it was not implied by the commenter it does not take away from the importance of making this point)... most people who believe in god do not adhere to a higher standard of living or behavior because there is a god, and in fact too many of them behave abominably and can because they BELIEVE the right thing. They don't have to ACT in any certain way. god forgives them after all and they are going to heaven! (i.e George Bush or Mohammad Atta although these are not even very good examples since both had the very dangerous attitude that they were working on god's behalf. Perhaps Dick Cheney would be a better example of what I am trying to illustrate.)

In actuality, those people that do have a high standard of behavior or have a sense of a higher purpose may attribute it to god but if they gave some in depth thought to their standards they would most likely find that they would behave they way they do with or without god. It simply makes life better and they are able to hold their heads up in dignity. And after all, the life we have today is what we know and what we do actually have. It's worth doing well.

Atheist quote of the day:
"We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children are smart." ~~ H.L. Menken

Friday, October 9, 2009

Not a myth

Science is always on the hunt for new discoveries. Not in order to disprove the bible as many believers would like to believe but in order to answer questions about the earth and the origins of humans. ScienceDaily.com is reporting today that the largest dinosaur footprints ever found have been discovered near Lyon France. (See the full article at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091009132928.htm)

It should be exciting to all of us to hear this kind of news! After all, we are learning new things daily about creatures who lived, essentially, on a faraway planet in another time and another place. A place we call Earth but as different from the Earth we know as the Moon is from us (although not in the same way!)

Doesn't it make you curious???


Titanosaur (Credit: Image courtesy of Queensland Museum)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reason

One of the "reasons" (and I use that word carefully as it generally has nothing at all to do with Reason) why many people, who perhaps do not believe or care whether the Adam and Eve stories are historical or not, hold on to the idea that there must be a god behind creation is twofold. One is stated most clearly by the alarm the catholic church recently stated in an article in Telegraph.co.uk "Cardinal George says... he, and the whole of the American Church, must be praying that the certainty of unbelief wears off as the “new atheists” have children and face the prospect
of mortality." In other words, their hope is that people will get scared(by him) of going to hell and will give up the "new atheism".

The other reason is a bit more nebulous and difficult to understand. It is simply a belief that somehow ancient people knew more about god than we do and were more in touch with spiritual matters. There are plenty of monetary reasons why new age and eastern religions perpetuate this idea...I mean, after all, would you really buy a bunch of crystals for gas if you hadn't been told by one of these ancient "wise" spiritual leaders how helpful they were? But the question one has to ask oneself is just WHY we believe that a bunch of spiritual leaders today, who got their "information" from ANCIENT witch doctors and fortune tellers who knew next to nothing about the earth or the body or the universe, would somehow know everything there is to know about god? Of course the easy, no brainer answer for those who wish to keep this belief is to say that science and technology get in our way of knowing god. Yet, if these wise spirit guides had a direct line to god, then why didn't god tell them more about how the body, for example, really worked? Even just a smidgeon more??? (If you think at all about what doctors in the past did in the name of science and discovery, it might increase your own questions about god's lack of communication skills on these matters)

And more particularly, in the case of the bible, why didn't god just communicate the real stories of ancient people that he helped along the way? Why make up stories that could never be verified? After all, god being god would know that god was telling fibs and that we would find that out one day.

Just sayin'

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Death and Politics

She pivots and power walks to the six-door stage, escaping the small mindedness that seems to infect the insular inhabitants of small towns like a virus over an open wound. “Alex” His voice floats after her, slowing her progression. “Alexandra.” The inflection holds a magnetic field pulling her back to a childhood where his voice moves her like hands on an Ouija board. She slows, glances back, then turns to watch his approach. For the first time, she realizes his shipwrecked frame. The mast of his shoulders that had once carried her over swells and through desperate storms that blew in from nowhere was now battered and worn. The solid hull which she had gripped frantically when a startling wave large enough to lift her up off her feet and carry her spindly frame out into the tangled arms of the deep came sweeping past the breakers of Taylor Beach, was weathered and frayed. And the jaunty lightness with which he had sailed into the house that had broken the intensity of the two women tug-o-warring over homework or curfew or any of the multitudes of flags worth fighting over when parent and child were in the throes of adjusting boundaries and shifting shores, seemed to have floundered into the depths from whence they came. His dancer’s gait has abandoned him and he steps heavily over a cement slab tattooed with a name as indecipherable as Rongorongo. He stumbles over a specter’s tripwire as he reaches the young woman’s anxious scrutiny.

This is an excerpt from my fictional piece 'Death and Politics at the end of the world' you can read more when you click on the 'Death and politics' tab on my labels of entries on the lower right hand side. )

photo "Old Key West" taken from: http://www.artgally.com/suehess/susanehess-gallery3.htm Her work is visually stunning and inspires me as I continue working on this piece.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The fiction of the bible...

To follow up on my post 'Fictional Holiday..." I would like to add a bit of detail.

Since we know that a frightening percentage (some polls claim as many as 63%!) of Americans do not believe in evolution, it means that to some extent they believe that god had something to do with the earth's creation. And if god created the earth, then it seems important to look critically at the source which most people use to sustain their beliefs.

A small percentage of Americans are either Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or Jewish-- 4.6 to be specific. This means that a very small minority in this country believe in the creation stories offered by Hindus or Buddhists. Muslims and Jews actually believe in the same essential creation story as Christians so this means that a vast majority-- a stunning 80.7%-- affiliate themselves with a Judeo-Christian background. This means that they were told the stories of god's involvement with creation from a very early (and impressionable) age. Having narrowed down the source which we should work from, it becomes clear that the stories that originated in the middle east are the most influential in shaping many American's understanding of how the earth came into being.

It should be noted, before further ado, that some of the afore mentioned christians do not have any difficulty with evolution and simply want to hold out for the guiding hand of god over the development of... the turtle, for example (Richard Dawkins uses the evolution of the turtle as an example far more extensively in his new book 'The Greatest show on Earth'). However, the purpose for holding on to this belief in scientific discourse is uncertain and in fact possibly unscrupulous since it seems to be brought up a means to shut investigation and queries down rather than to allow for honest study and research- this is seen most particularly in classrooms across the country. But it does explain why so many people connect themselves with a faith while still believing in evolution.


I would also venture to say that many believers are even a bit skeptical about the biblical account of creation and would not have a hard time with saying that perhaps the Adam and Even story is not intended to be a literal account of how humans sprang to life. Yet biblical stories still hold the imagination of many of those of faith and even those who no longer go to church except on easter and christmas, know little about the stories that have been handed on to them as historical fact and take the tales for granted just like they do the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

So let's start at the beginning.

In the beginning god created--- oops, which beginning do we want? There are two different creation stories even within the biblical account. Well, never mind silly complications like that...

god created adam. Then god created eve. Whoa! In another ancient text, The Alphabet of Ben-Sira, a woman named Lilith was Adam's first wife. But she refused to serve under him and was quickly replaced by the more docile Eve. The Amarna letters are among the earliest texts that mention an Eve-like character. In them, she is actually a goddess named Kheba. A watered down and domesticated Asherah was also a "model" if you will for the biblical account of the first woman.

So apparently the biblical accounts of the earth's creation weren't original at all! They "evolved", if you will, from ancient texts that first sprang up around the 1300 b.c.'s in-- Egypt! So was god in touch with the egyptians before he told the early israelites they were the chosen ones?? And if so, why would god speak to them first? After all, god knew what the egyptians would do to his chosen race, didn't he? But in reality even the ancient Egyptian myths were preceded by even more ancient stories.

(For a brief, yet understandable, explanation about the Amarna letters, see Wikipedia. Although Wikipedia is often maligned as a source for misinformation, in this case the sources are sound and the explanation is accessible.)

Tune in next time for more on the intrigues of the (mis)leading authority on the earth's creation. Same bat channel. Same bat time. (Well, time is relative on a blog, I guess)

Monday, October 5, 2009

I believe in Father Christmas

My daily blog will be posted elsewhere today. You can see it on my Christmas blog http://yuletides.blogspot.com/. I will be updating this site periodically this month and posting will increase (I hope) with the yuletide season. If you want to add your own family traditions, put them in the comments. If you submit a recipe or craft suggestion, I will be happy to add it to the main page where all who view the blog can read it!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Beginning at the end of the world

In the first moments after the sun's awakening, the Keys slumber with the sleep of the dead. The trail of carbon dioxide that will later cloud the narrow highway from Homestead to Key West is pure and the waters are not yet fogged by power skis and motor boats. Mists from the warm water rise to the horizon, giving the sun's first flirtation a dusky solemnity. Standing alone on the pier, the solitude settles into the soul, a submarine of quiet. Occasionally, a Kingbird will burst into a festive gladness that shames the Egret, anticipating the trade of song for flight.

It is an ephemeral moment- a moment that is not captured by the blink of an aperture...

it can only be captured in the quiet moments of the readied soul.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fictional holiday...

Today is apparently Sukkot. In case you're not jewish or are and don't know all your stupid little feast days, Sukkot is the Feast of Booths. This is in remembrance of the Israelites escape from Egypt, the booths being the temporary shelters they lived in as they passed through the desert.

But since there never was a group of people called "Israelites" that were held in captivity in Egypt and since there is not a trace of evidence that a vast number of people trekked through the desert from Egypt to the little coastline along the Mediterranean(40 years or otherwise), this religious celebration is about as meaningless as December 25 is to the birth of Christ.

Picture copied from: www.jew-jews-judaism.com

Friday, October 2, 2009

This is your brain on god...

In an article for Newsweek, Lisa Miller (http://www.newsweek.com/id/216551)reports on a study which Sam Harris and his colleagues have been conducting on the brain-- specifically looking to see if people who believe in god are wired differently than people who do not believe in god. Interestingly, the results of the study show that religious beliefs are carried in the same part of the brain as the part that contains empirical fact. So-- there is no difference in how a child learns about math or science than how they learn and understand god. The authors go on to point out that people who believe in god are just as emphatic about the reality of god as a mathematician would be about the speed of light. (The difference I would point out would be that people who are in mathematical or scientific studies DO modify their beliefs about math and what it tells them when the evidence demands a reevaluation while believers... well, you know) At any rate, at the end of the article, she says, "While the brains of believers and nonbelievers do not differentiate between beliefs about God and about mathematics, the believers themselves do, a little. Participants retrieved their religious beliefs and their historical facts from the same place and in the same way, but they showed less certainty when thinking about the religious statements. It took them a little longer to push the button, and a part of the brain having to do with uncertainty, or cognitive dissonance, lit up. If even the strongest believers are a little unsure about God, and the strongest atheists are a teeny bit anxious that they might be wrong, there’s room, perhaps, for one person to begin to try to imagine the world view of another, no matter what the brain sees as true."

My response to this statement is: understanding why atheists believe what they do and a believer's willingness to admit her or she also has doubts will hardly end the debate. And atheists do not need to understand why believers believe what they do to understand that they are adding 2 + 2 and coming up with 10. And, point in fact, many of them do understand why believers believe. The argument is not about one group not understanding another. When someone erroneously believes something and then tries to get others to believe this inaccuracy, a problem is being created which needs to be addressed.

And furthermore, the ongoing argument is not simply about god or no god. The argument is really about issues like: teaching evolution in schools (without adding myths about gods creating the earth-- and by the way- why does the christian creation story hold more weight than say the Native American stories?), allowing women to choose what is best for themselves (i.e. abortion and birth control), allowing research on stem cells...

I can go on and on about the damage that is done in the name of belief in god, but you get the point.

There is simply no middle ground.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Heroes!


How do Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens do it? They are criticized and maligned from all sides- even their own "kind" (fellow atheists). Sam Harris has a feed on his site that shows articles that appear from multiple sources that mentions the "new atheists" (which generally means they are targeting one of the three if not all). They are referred to quite often -and nearly always it is an attack for their criticism of religion. The far right of course sees the Atheistic trio as a threat-- and rightly! But the liberal christians- those that believe the bible is not an historical book and should not be consider as such and it's value is in the metaphor (particularly the life of Jesus) are also consistently attacking them, apparently angry that these men are ultimately fighting for reason in the public discourse. It seems to me that the liberal left should heed the criticism of the three men. They are far closer in their view of life in many cases than they are to the right. The liberal left continually defends their conservative counterparts which is interesting when one considers that fundamentalists and evangelicals typically view the left as far more dangerous and wrongheaded than the bantam population of atheists.

Ultimately, however, what is amazing is how these men continue on in spite of pressure, even from their fellow atheists, to not be so vocal in their criticism of religion. What critics fail to understand, however, is that they are fighting for the people who are subordinated and controlled by the mechanisms of religion. Women and children (and they often hit the church very hard on their indoctrination of children) are always the easy targets in the oppressive regimes of religion. They are kept in subordination so that the leaders can continue to loot and plunder the flock on the pretense that an eternal reward lies on the other side of this life.

It is appropriate to note this ongoing war between Reason and faith and the attempts to silence these warriors during banned book week. I personally find the current attempts to stifle the conversation akin to the banning of books. There is a war on ideas in this country. There are too many important issues in the course of the every day that are off limits because of the fear of stepping on someone's toes- most particularly the sizeable toes of the faithful.

As Americans we speak about free speech in an ignorant way-- as though each person's opinion or experience carries the same weight as a fact. The ALA states on their website (and I quote them because I have worked in libraries for the past six years now) "The ALA actively advocates in defense of the rights of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment. A publicly supported library provides free and equal access to information for all people of that community. We enjoy this basic right in our democratic society. It is a core value of the library profession."

We need to allow ideas to flourish- we need to encourage reason and civil discourse. We need it as surely as we need the air that we breathe! So fight on Mr. Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

We need the public option!

www.AmericaCantWait.com

It's clear that we're not going to get the healthcare reform that we need unless we force our legislators to do what is right. Progressive groups all over the country are fighting hard but they need the people to speak up. There are a few bills floating around Washington that have a public option but they are being shoved aside because the White House (a.k.a. Barack Obama- NOT George Bush surprisingly)made a deal with Big Pharma and the insurance companies (see Robert Reich's blog for more information. His link is in list of blogs that I follow.) It's criminal and we should all be outraged. This is what Obama ran on and he sold out on the issue before it even came to committee!

It's time for our government to do what is right for the PEOPLE not just for the corporations. Sign Howard Dean's petition today to add your voice to the call demanding that politicians do the right thing for the American people-- for once! www.AmericaCantWait.com.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

and this week?

Why. . . it's Mental Illness Awareness Week! I wonder if there is anyone with mental illness who needs to be made aware of it? (of their mental illness not the week)

OOH! AND! It's banned books week. Now there is a topic worth being aware of.

Some of the books that have been banned are:

'American Heritage Dictionary'
'Catch 22'
'Catcher in the Rye'
'Fahrenheit 451'
'The Joy of Sex'
'More Joy of Sex'
'Lysistrata'
'As I Lay Dying'
'Maurice'

Some of them are not too surprising given the puritanistic roots of this country, but the dictionary is rather funny.

Some of the books that governments have banned are:
'Brave New World' banned in Ireland
'Candide' banned by U.S. Customs
'Doctor Zhivago' banned in the USSR
'Lady Chatterly's Lover' banned in the U.S. and Great Britain
'Ulysses' banned by the U.S. (overturned in a case called "United States v. One Book Called Ulysses")

Monday, September 28, 2009

Three days

October 1st is the beginning of National Blog Writer's Month. But more pressing still... tomorrow is Confucius Day! Who knew??? And more exciting still?? Wednesday is Mud Pack Day. Wow life is full of interesting things to celebrate. But I will be acknowledging Blog Writer's Month by posting daily-- I hope.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

childhood



The earth cradles the white flakes producing a dappled landscape until the browns of winter are asphyxiated, leaving behind a stifling blanket of white. The hold of darkness is released and the earth glows, producing an ethereal beauty that can be felt in the silence of the soul. Artists and poets attempt to capture the somber beauty but their efforts fall short and result in a copy of very poor relief.
With the ascending sun and the broadcast of school closings, the silence is broken. A collective shout for joy goes up among the children of the community as they anticipate a day full of adventure: battles with icy bombs whizzing through the air leaving crimson welts on the sides of the enemy’s face; bodies are launched onto the ground the prostrate forms with arms and legs flailing leaving the imprint of heavenly beings in their wake; or constructing snow sculptures on the pristine white overlay in front yards or a nearby park. Drowsy toddlers leap out of bed and stumble to the window, as alert and excited by the snow as they would be of a sighting of Father Christmas. An armistice is called between rival siblings and feelings of good will and charity abound.
Breakfast is waved off. Mothers gape in amazement as children, who are otherwise helpless in the day-to-day affair of getting off to school, magically seem capable of matching socks, finding lost snow boots and donning tight gloves with minimal supervision. They bundle up snuggly without fuss, pulling caps down over ears so they aren’t called back with the shrill threat that “it’s ten degrees colder out there than the weatherman said it was because of that icy wind. You’ll catch your death!”
Swaddled dwarves barrel out front doors, thrashing at the snow so that it eddies around them, a wintry Sufi mantra. Up and down the street, children wave, laughter couples with shouting to break the morning solitude like a frozen stalactite as it cracks, falls and shatters across the ground. Snowballs fill the air as comets did Halley’s imagination.
The first snow always seemed a magical thing to me. I would step out the front door of our little house and stare at the brilliant landscape suddenly void of hue, the frosty air freezing the moisture in my nose and replacing warm respiration with an arctic chill. I shivered in spite of the warmth of my jacket and stood motionless; astonished by the frozen landscape that accepted winter’s whitewash as though it belonged and always would. I was breathless, stunned by the solemn beauty, surprised by the heretofore unknown charm of the neighborhood. The roofs of houses, brown dormant grasses, leafless branches and pock-marked streets were camouflaged. The house across the way (which in the snowless months of the year was similar to Pippi Longstocking’s villa) in the winter, resembled something straight out of Lucy Maude Montgomery.

Monday, August 31, 2009

In July, we took a trip to New Mexico where we planned on warm, cloudless days and lingering evenings with gorgeous sunsets. Unfortunately, monsoonal patterns discouraged the sun and made the sun's setting difficult to see. But weather isn't the only wonderful thing in New Mexico. We had a great time at Sunspot, the observatory that is just a jog from Cloudcroft (the village we were staying in), Roswell (where Science Fiction meets the desert), the space museum and White Sands (pictured below and borrowed from http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1750 as my photographs were too overexposed to do justice to the dunes).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stretching

Shadows of darkened buildings reach across the street, clutching the byproduct of the sun’s golden strands and pulling it into its famished jaws, melting the night’s lustrous sheen into solidarity with the night. A shard of laughter trumpets into the night, the night crowers as familiar to the town as the feathered braggarts that stroll the streets as confidently as… The door clicks behind her and stillness as solid as the shadow causes her to pause into the night’s trepidation. She stumbles onto a still-lifed street, veering away from contact with the nightcrawlers that give the city for a reputation that rivals this big Apples, Easies, and O’sies and her ankles quiver uncertainly, hinting at alcoholic influences. She reaches a battered two-door and leans heavily on grime frosted side panels, pausing for an uncertain moment.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Consuming

The economic crisis really puts perspective on what our purpose on this earth is-- or at least according to the media and those who manipulate the economy (or "run" it), we are consumers. Nothing more and nothing less. We must consume in order to get the economy on it's feet. Where we as a society have needs? well, good luck! But we all must buy more in order to keep the economy going! We have to spend in order for those who make the real money to make more money so that they are willing to invest so that we have more to buy. Is there a point when we realize that consuming only consumes and does not rebuild or give back?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's the economy stupid...



Paul Krugman has got the word on the economy and is pointing us all in the right direction! Check out his book The Return of Depression Economics. He breaks the economy down for any layperson in an enjoyable and entertaining way.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Speaking to the imagination

Einstein is often misquoted and misrepresented by believers who want to claim him as one of their own. But he was quoted as saying "I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." From a letter Einstein wrote in English, dated 24 March 1954.* While reading his biography, the author mentions his re-embracement of his jewish heritage. While this may or may not be true (Judaism is not terribly concerned with the actual belief in god...), he also notes that Einstein's most innovative and powerful discoveries came during the period in which he totally rejected religion and all it represented. Einstein was also quoted as saying about his childlike faith "Thus I came...to a deep religiosity, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of 12. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached a conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true....Suspicion against every kind of authority grew out of this experience...an attitude which has never left me."* It was freedom from the religious structures that allowed his mind to flourish and it was this self-same freedom which found him imagining himself riding alongside a lightbeam.

"The great discoveries were not made by those agog at the wonders of the divine, but by those intrigued by the wonders of the mundane." --Michael Coulter*

*http://atheistempire.com/

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Your Spirit-Animal


In one of the iconic scenes from my favorite show (it becomes redundant to rename it each time...), Seamus sits in a lotus position (Well, he doesn’t really get to the classic lotus position. He’s really cross-legged.). Transition to a shot of the magnificent blue, teal, lapis lazuli, turquoise, cobalt waters where dolphins pas de deux in the waves. Seamus inhales deeply, taking in the breath of life from the island. One mammal delves into the deep, calling brightly into the darkness and smiling at the camera as the scene fades back to the contemplating New Jersey boy who was born to be a gearhead but who longs to be another Ernest Hemingway.

The dolphins are, as you come to find out, a symbol for who Seamus is... or as Sheriff Cody would say, "his spirit guide" Earlier in the scene, the mantraing peace officer explains the concept by telling his own experience at Joshua Tree ("very high energy there...")The memory is written on his face and you can see traces of his own animalistic adventures when he tells the Seeker how he became "...a lion, manifested."

His face molds into a feline grin as he describes his experience. "I started running, butt-nude, naked, barefoot over burning sands. I was a LION. I became my spirit animal.You hear what I'm saying Seeker? I was not following my bliss... I was bliss! I was the dream. I ran 23 miles, barefoot over burning sand. You follow me traveler?... That is the deepest moment I've ever experienced down here in dense matter. All I ever wanted for the rest of my life was to bound over boulders and chase small game. Couldn't live my life that way though... they'd put me in a zoo."

Most of us aren't torn between our spirit animal and the existence we would have as such. Most of us have no idea what living in that kind of wild abandonment would be like. We are consumed with what Cody realizes as a simple necessary ingredient to survival-- the "green energy." Unfortunately, when it becomes our focus, our goal, it loses "energy" and the best we can realize is a zoo-like existance, pacing in our cages, counting the steps between meals. But the life of the wild animal in the zoo is a truncated life and at some point it is time to ask yourself what kind of life you really want? WHAT is your spirit guide telling you?

Seamus, earlier in the episode (before he lost his lottery winnings) tells the conchs in Gumbo's End o' the World Cafe to follow their dreams. He espouses a famous quote of Joseph Campbell to "follow your bliss" to Rikki who is certain he is referring to the "Soup Guy." Later he asks Flame, one of the bar's dancers, what her dream is and encourages her to go to Paris to study ballet (in spite of her age and apparent lack of classical training).

This leads naturally to finding that inner self, the spirit animal that will guide you when you are tempted to climb back into the cave, stepping in time to the dinner all and will give you courage when the night is serenaded by predators.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

not wild, but pets...

From a little different angle, I might compare my life as a christian and daughter of christian parents to that of a dog. I was raised to serve a master- to be at his beck-and-call. Life was limited to the back yard-- watching the birds fly overhead or watching the squirrels dance in the treetops, just out of reach. Occasionally I got out for walks but I was often overwhelmed by it and became terribly afraid of the great outdoors, preferring to nap in a sunny spot inside.

Doesn't sound too bad you say?

Yet unlike the dog, my master was not real. There was no one feeding me. Like the wild animals I still had to find sustenance. I was not able to stay indoors all the time, bathed and cared for by the kind hands of a smarter being.

No, for those who serve Christ, or for that matter follow Buddha or Allah-- whatever heavenly deity they believe in order to keep their world tidy and safe-- life is lived with the same chores and burdens that the wild animals have in order to survive. They don't understand this. They delude themselves into thinking they are the free ones, but in fact they are more like Lions in the zoo or a dog in the back yard-- safe from nothing really other than the fears in their mind.

They will never experience the freedom of bounding over boulders or chasing small game.

Cody realizes that following his bliss does not come without the burden of survival but he is committed to following his bliss-- to being a lion in his heart.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Phoenix

When asked what bird a person would choose to be, one responded, "A phoenix".

Having a special affinity for the Egyptian myths and archeology, I was reading on this site http://www.livius.org/phi-php/phoenix/phoenix.html to find out a bit more than the average Harry Potter book will tell you concerning the origins of the legendary flighted creature.

Mythology is an important part of culture... The stories we tell ourselves help to define who we are and what we will do in and with our lives. Recovering an understanding the power of myth helps to place them in the proper perspective (for instance, understanding the bible in a similar vein as Greek mythology would be a much healthier attitude for those christians who want the bible to be GOD'S WORD.) while recovering ancient stories of the goddess of sexuality would help us recover from the repressed sexuality that christianity has imprinted on the American conscience.

Even feminists have rejected the inherent sensuality of humanity, preferring to buy into the "sex is bad and as such, women are always victimized by sex" mentality. To my mind, this means a rejection of self and worse, allowing religion to dominate and define who women and men should be and how they relate to each other.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

what is success?

For a writer (of which community I fancy myself to be a part of on a good day-- Like Seamus in 'Key West' my response to the comment, "A writer?" would be "Yeah... somedays... sort of... no"), as it is in many other artistic fields, it is difficult to balance the desire for an audience and to be a bestselling writer with the greater goal of being true to oneself-- and offering the best one has to offer. One might compare Hemingway and Fitzgerald... but in an age when bestsellers are written by such as John Grisham or Stephanie Meyer, Hemingway looks considerably more challenging than he was considered during his heyday. The challenge is however to curb, somehow, the desire to be number one on the Barnes and Noble list and reach for something better, to create something that will challenge the mind and heart. I don't know if I can or ever will attain that which some call "great literature" but I do know that to present less than the best that I am capable of is to sell out which ultimately makes the work meaningless.

Strong words?? perhaps...

but something to keep at heart.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ithaka



As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

~~C.P. Cavafy

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dreams

Last night I dreamt of you-
dreamt of the day on the beach
our skin browned in the sun
the sand clinging to limbs
We swam out to the rocks and reclined,
limbs interlocked
flesh melting
The water laps at the rocks reminiscent of
sex
you
in me
out
in
We are tugged and pulled,
the ocean's fingers draw at us
enticing us
to dance with the residents of the deep
to linger
in our forgetfulness

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cross-stitching life

Can you start life over? Can you undo a lifetime of---well, I'll just call it what it was-- brainwashing and make yourself into who you could have been, should have been?

For nearly four years-- well, really five years-- since the October I read 'Dance of the Dissident Daughter' I have been feeling my way along, looking, learning, unraveling, reweaving. It's like one of my cross-stitch stockings. I got to a point and realized that I had made a mistake. The pattern was wrong and it was ugly- lopsided. Wrong. And unfortunately the ugliness had bled into the stockings I had made for my children. (An interesting metaphor that actually says more than I even intended-- ) So it was time to decide what to do with it. Did I hang on to it and live with what I had? Not terribly tempting since it left me in the same place essentially. Did I undo part of it and fix as much as possible? Tempting- it's hard to unravel those little stitches and even fixing it a bit is going to take quite some time... or do I take it all out and start over?? (That is going to be a LOT of work!) OR should I chuck it all out the door and just start over???? Sounds the easiest in many regards but isn't really-- after all I have to pick a new pattern, buy new thread, new cloth,etc.-- and life of course isn't as easy to get clean as an Aida cloth.

But the old had to go. It was untenable to try and salvage most of it and just repair bits. There was simply too much wrong with it.

So, little by little...

here, a really bad part. Undo that.

Ugh! that bit there is completely backwards-- you have to take that out!

And this is completely the wrong color.

Life had been based on what would be-- on there being a life after life that would reward the pain and struggle in this life. Life wasn't based on there being any value in it. The "stocking" had no value in and of itself. It was something to be made because you needed to have something to show for your time on planet earth.

And that is essentially it-- I didn't have anything worth salvaging because it wasn't a life, it was a travail that you went through to get to the other side. My theology would adjust and I'd see my role on the planet differently but essentially it was all for the same purpose- to come to that day and have the Father tell me, "Well, done good and faithful servant." I was always waiting-- eternally waiting--- for??? Maybe to be what we all want to be- (and that for some is not as elusive as it was for me)- accepted as a REAL person- for who I WAS. Who I AM. (...although I had the problem that much of the template that had been used for the pattern of who I was had been tampered with- altered by the force of religion-- really generations of religious background that may even have been imprinted at this point in my DNA and family issues that had never been dealt with. )

So I looked it over, this stocking, and realized that what I was left with was---

shit.

and it was going to need to be started over- or at least as close as possible.

and the process of undoing has been long and painful

and is still going on.

But what I have before now me is good-- because I have gotten a good deal undone and I think I have figured out a way to add a new bit of Aida cloth rather than unraveling the whole bit. And what I have so far is good because it is done with my own hand, with my own ideas and my own conception of who I am and what I want. I know I would be a different person had I been raised without the restrictions of religion. I know that I would have made completely different choices had I not believed certain things-- and that is important because it leads me to a better place since now I know that I would have been a better person had the circumstances been different- so there is something to aim for. But also because now I know that much of what IS good about me now had nothing to do with the way I was raised. (in fact to the contrary-- my intelligence was stifled-- after all, outsmarting god or smarty pantsing your way to unbelief was a quick road to hell. Dangerous!...Now there is an effective control technique! After all, if you nurture your intelligence, if you ask too many hard questions or the questions take you to the wrong place- with wrong being doubts about god or even having different beliefs about god- then you will lose your faith which ultimately leads you to destruction -the unspoken ever present scary place... hell!Believers like to pretend that they don't want to scare people into belief in god but that is what their statements always lead them to whether they will admit it or not)

I finished a book called 'Superstition' last week (see earlier post). The author, Robert Park Prof. of Physics at Princeton, goes after superstitions of all kinds but really what he does alongside that is show what it is inside homo sampiens that has led them to accept superstition that is out of sync with reality today (although I think he could have gone further with this point) And he also shows how humanity has evolved and how the ethic of "doing unto others" is really a part of that evolution. (That's one of those things, you know-- this sort of innate, deeply ingrained prejudice that I grew up with- that people who didn't believe in god weren't really good people, that they might try to be good but they were always overcome by their real (corrupt) nature. And as many years as I have worked at undoing that mythology, it still lingers. Always more to unravel.)

So here I am-- standing at the brink of a beginning.

We, Maurice and I, want to travel-- to Key West (some more!)- to Epypt (I really want to see the pyrmids!) -to the ruins of Troy--- Our travel will always be geared around some bits of history we want to smell, touch, feel... We also want to go to Princeton and the east coast to see Fitzgerald's home (After having read 'This side of paradise' the idea of seeing the places he writes about is really intriguing).

I have a new job-- but my new job is really more than a change in where I am going to be in two weeks. I got this job as a new person, based on my experience and who I am-. When I started the job I currently have at Libaria at Grant M.S., I was hired as a body. The principal could have cared less who I was or if I loved reading, etc. I could have sat in the library here doing nothing and he would have been happy as long as the kids could get a book when they needed it. The new principal is not much better. She really only wants a body. I truly think she thought I would stay here and do what I do for less money- and while the money is not the issue- it does symbolize something in the system I work in. And it symbolizes something for me personally-- for one thing it's me saying to the world, "I have too much experience and give too much to this school to take less than what I have now" and it's me saying to myself, "You have something to offer- give it." It's me saying "I am not just a body. I have value."

--
"We are all standing at the station. The train is always leaving and the soul checks it's watch and wonders if its his time to go." -Cole, character in Key West, episode: Act of God.

"And the true realism, always and everywhere, is that of the poets: to find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Regiment of the Senses

Speak not of guilt, speak not of responsibility. When the Regiment of the Senses parades by, with music, and with banners; when the senses shiver and shudder, it is only a fool and and an irreverent person that will keep his distance, who will not embrace the good cause, marching towards the conquest of pleasures and passions.

All of morality’s laws – poorly understood and applied – are nil and cannot stand even for a moment, when the Regiment of the Senses parades by, with music, and with banners.

Do not permit any shadowy virtue to hold you back. Do not believe that any obligation binds you. Your duty is to give in, to always give in to Desires, these most perfect creatures of the perfect gods. Your duty is to enlist as a faithful footman, with simplicity of heart, when the Regiment of the Senses parades by, with music, and with banners.

Do not confine yourself at home, misleading yourself with theories of justice, with the preconceptions of reward, held by an imperfect society. Do not say, Such is my toil’s worth and such is my due to savor. Just as life is an inheritance, and you did nothing to earn it as a recompense, so should Sensual Pleasure be. Do not shut yourself at home; but keep the windows open, open wide, so as to hear the first sound of the passing of the soldiers, when the Regiment of the Senses arrives, with music, and with banners.

Do not be deceived by the blasphemers who tell you that the service is dangerous and laborious. The service of sensual pleasure is a constant joy. It does exhaust you, but it exhausts you with inebriations sublime. And finally, when you collapse in the street, even then your fortune is enviable. When your funeral will pass by, the Forms to which your desires gave shape will shower lilacs and white roses upon your coffin, young Olympian Gods will bear you on their shoulders, and you will be buried in the Cemetery of the Ideal, where the mausoleums of poetry gleam conspicuously white.

~~ C.P Cavafy

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