Category Archives: philosophy

A Fistful of Caskets

I’m sitting at a picnic table in a park. A father and son are throwing a baseball back and forth. A young girl throws herself down the slide with a squeal. Her older brother chases her down while their parents stand nearby and chat, smiles on their faces. The sun is mid-way between high noon and sunset.

The moment is snap-shot worthy. Something from a postcard.

My cell phone, lying on the table, lights up next to me. My dad is calling. I see that I’ve missed a previous text from him that reads simply, CALL ME ASAP.

My stomach drops and all the terrible things come to my mind. How much of an emergency is this? What am I about to discover? I’m picking up the phone and dread is filling me up. It rings and I’m thinking it’s either going to be awful or an overreaction. It rings again. I tap my finger as my stomach tightens.

Mid-ring he picks up. A moment of silence. A choke. A pause. It’s just long enough to know it’s not good. Just enough to think it’s bad. Just enough time to brace myself for news, some news. Please do not tell me someone is dead.

I hear a sharp inhale and then, “My mom died.”

Silence. My thoughts a void. Then it all snaps back to me, thrown in my face like a bright light after darkness. My grandma was dead. My dad’s mother was dead.

My mind goes blank, the back of my brain falls out and all I can think is of a big empty space where no thought lives at all. I stare at that dad throwing the ball to his son. The image is macabre.

My mind instantly throws a handful of sloppy thoughts in front of me. What was the last thing you said? When was the last time you spoke? Did you return her last call? I struggle to think, to answer, to understand.

My dad and I sit in silence for the better part of a minute. I hear the occasional sniff on his side followed by shallow exhales. He lost his mother, I think. A picture of my own mother rises into my mind and I immediately understand that someday I will be standing in his shoes, calling Rory, telling him that my mother has passed on.

I ask what happened.

“She’s old. She’s old.”

I fly back to South Dakota a few days later and meet up with my family. There are a lot of us. I grew up amongst these people. And I grew up amongst my grandmother, she having lived next door to me my entire life.

At the wake I stand at her casket and stare down at her. They have made her look nice though she did already look nice while she was alive. Her hair is perfect. Her skin is colored to look healthy. A slight smile. I can’t help but think she looks happy to be dead.

Her hands are cold. And small. And her skin is thin and wrought with fat veins and deep wrinkles. I see a watch on her hand, Wizard of Oz themed. It ticks, very much alive.

I watch the second hand take it’s jolting steps forward, forever marching ahead. And another second. And another second. And another second. And now I’m a few moments closer to the end of my own plank, my yellow brick road getting shorter and shorter, brick by brick by brick.

The last thing I see before they close the casket is her watch, still ticking.

At the graveside they’ve dug a hole before the family arrives. I carry the casket from the hearse to the grave and slide it onto the harness. Around the casket they’ve placed fake grass, hiding the earth from our eyes, cloaking death, hiding the truth from us, trying to put make-up on it, hiding what we’re doing.

Some words are said and people begin to walk away, the casket still sitting on the harness.

The crowd gathers in their cars and drive away, the casket still sitting on the harness.

As I drive away, I see the casket, still sitting on the harness, reflected in my mirrors.

I want to watch it lower. I want to bury her with my hands. I don’t want to drive away and eat turkey sandwiches and potato salad while she sits alone, being lowered and buried by some Chuck and Larry Whoever.

Afterwards, in the church basement, I have a chance to look out at the attendees. We are young and old. I witness the web she has weaved, the relationships she has forged, the people she knew, either by choice or by blood. These were her people. Some of them so young they are brand new, a baby nursing. Some of them so old, their minds have begun to fade, their memories being slowly deleted, their relationships being erased.

I look at the ones that are closest to me, mother, father. Siblings. Uncles and aunts. Cousins and friends. And I realize I will be standing here again in the years to come. If I am lucky enough to continue to live, I will see each of them in a casket, their eyes closed, their make-up on, their happy-to-be-dead smiles. And their ticking watches. Like the marching of a drum.

Tick.

Tick.

Tock.

I fly back home the day after the day after the funeral and am walking up my driveway in LA late. It’s dark. The moon is up. My family is sleeping.

Inside I drop my bag and kill my coat. Kiss my wife. Walk into the children’s room and see them sleeping, their eyes closed, their faces young and healthy. Their smiles nowhere to be found in their sleep.

I enter our room and pull off my shirt. Glancing down into the crib, I see Beau sleeping on her back, one hand laying on her tummy. One hand sprawled above her head.

I stare at her. And I stare at her. And I stare at her. And I can’t shake the thought. It eats at me and turns my stomach and makes me sick. I feel my throat restrict and my eyes begin to well up.

Someday I will die. Someday I will leave you alone, Beau. Someday I will leave you all. Alone. Someday you will have only one another. Someday you will be standing over me, staring down at me. I can’t protect you from this. You will suffer the death of a parent.

And if we are lucky, you will suffer the death of a parent and not I suffering the terrible and awful naked horror of losing a child.

The clock ticks. It ticks on and on. My children grow. They have families and children of their own, friends and lives. They’ve built their own webs of relationships, their own complex frameworks that I will not know. I will not be familiar with them. Their late-life tapestry will not be for me to observe or take part in.

Staring down at Beau, the third and final thought strikes me and I want to walk out of the room, redirect my thoughts and blind myself with distractions. I want the horrible earth to be covered in fake grass – I don’t want the truth. I want the make-up on the truth. I don’t want the truth. I want to run from it but instead I stand at her crib side and I keep staring, digging into it. Letting the emotions encase me.

Someday Beau will die. And someday she will lie in a coffin. And I will not be there. And strangers will celebrate the life of my baby.

In the earth, my grandmothers watch continues to tick.

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The Ultimate Conspiracy

Something horrible has happened to me.

I was raised in the Catholic church. The Catholic church is what the religious community would call fundamentalist. What the H-E-C-K is that?

Let’s go GOOOOOOOOGLE it!

The All-Seeing-All-Knowing-Great-and-Powerful voice of the Internet defines a fundamentalist as a person who believes in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture in a religion.

Yeah, that was me. Certain ideas that come along with fundamentalism are:

  1. Creationism. The Earth was created in a literal six days.
  2. There was a literal Adam and Eve, real people in a real garden.
  3. Noah put two of each animal onto an ark.

The facts of the story are the facts of the story and the facts of the story are literal.

When I was in high school, in ninth grade, I have a very powerful memory of sitting in my Biology classroom while my teacher, a hulking football coach with the body of a line-backer, explained what evolution was.

Any questions? he asked.

No hands go up except mine. The truth is, I don’t have a question. I have a statement and I’m about to drop a Knowledge Bomb on this entire class. Get ready for this treat.

“Johnny?” he calls on me and I can almost hear in his voice that he doesn’t expect much to roll out of my mouth. Why would he? I fail nearly every class I’m in and spend every single Saturday in detention. I had a track record of being a brilliant rock-star and I’m about to back it up even further.

“Mr. Bailey. Today is April 1st. Happy Evolutionist Day.”

What a joker I was. What a cocky, thoughtless, sub-human, unconscious animal I was. A chimpanzee wearing Vans and a crucifix around my neck. A WWJD bracelet adorning my wrist.

He cocks a beefy eyebrow at me. My extremely clever joke has gone over his great gorilla head, it seems. I try to speak on his level.

“Today is April 1st. Today is April Fools Day. Happy Evolutionist Day.” Because only a fool could believe in evolution.

Everyone sitting in my class was being fed some laughable story about evolution from this brain-washed academic messenger. Goodness. His tale about man from monkey (not to mention amoeba) was insanely laughable. It was crazy. It was koo-koo-bananas.

Mr. Bailey takes a deep breath. “Please enlighten us, Mr. Brookbank.”

“God created us. God made us.” I recite.

“When?”

“Recently. About six or seven thousand years ago.”

“How do you know?”

“The Bible told me so.”

“And the Bible was written by?”

“God. Man. Man inspired by God.”

He tries another angle but I block him. “John. Do you believe that Noah put all those animals on the ark?” “Yes.” “Two of each?” “Yes.” “How did he feed them?”

Shit. I hadn’t thought about this. Thankfully, I had an answer for things I hadn’t thought about. “God made it okay. God can do anything.” Ah, yes. That’s a clever one. The Wild Card. The Get-Out-Of-Jail free card. Works every time.

The rest of the class is mostly disengaged, happy that they’ve escaped talk of DNA and the process of natural selection for at least a short amount of time.

“If Adam and Eve were the first humans, wouldn’t their children be bred by incest?”

Dang it. He’s caught me off guard again. It’s okay, though. I’ve got an answer for it.

“God made it okay. God can do anything.” Wild card!

“So God is okay with incest?”

“No. Incest is an abomination but it was okay then.” I kind of start to panic. I blurt out my red button phase that rockets me into the untouchable zone. “God is mysterious and his powers are not understood by man.”

The conversation ultimately ends with me raising an eyebrow and balking at his idiocy. I walked out of the class, absolutely shocked and appalled that such a person would be allowed to teach the youth. What a complete moron.

I was so proud of myself when this happened. I had stood up for my personal beliefs. I had bravely confronted psychological evil in the world. I knew my ideas were different but I was okay with being the black sheep. I did it for Jesus. I couldn’t stand down and let these guys get the best of my homie. He had died for me. The least I could do is get his back in Biology 101. How would I ever be a Warrior for Christ in The Real World if I couldn’t even verbally defend my faith within the confines of a classroom?

You want to get in shape? Create a habit of going to the gym. You want a clean house? Create a habit of cleaning your house. You want to be confident? Create a habit of telling yourself that you’re confident. You want to hold a belief, any belief, create a habit of telling it to yourself every single day.

I think, therefore I am.

You want to be a fundamentalist, go to a church where they reinforce that idea. Have your family and friends reinforce the idea. And if you’re born into it, even better. You don’t ever have to think that maybe there is another option. When I was a kid, I was so thankful that my parents had raised me in the one single correct religion. Thank God! Literally.

What would have happened to me, I often thought to myself, if I had been born in some filthy country where they worshipped Allah? My uncle was a Muslim and I think he might be going to Hell. His kids too. And probably his wife. Which was a shame because I kind of liked them. If I had been born into that land, amongst those people, I would have had to go out, find Jesus on my own, leave my native faith, commit to Christ and then be saved. That seemed like a lot of work and also that country and the people seemed kind of dirty and so I was really thankful to be where I was. They were hell-bound blasphemers who believed in a silly invisible God that told them what was right and wrong. And they prayed to him, hahahahaha. Idiots.

April 1st was also Happy Muslim Day, it would seem.

I thought to myself, Thank God that I was born into the greatest place on earth. Thank God I was born into the correct religion. Thank God…..”

….that I didn’t have to think for myself.

Thank God that I had been raised to be thoughtless. Thank God I had been raised to disavow the use of my own human logic in favor of a faceless and fact-less belief system that told me everything I thought was right and everything everyone else thought was wrong.

Thy ego is starving. Let us feed it with self-righteousness. YUUUUUUUMMY. It is bitter with ignorance but sweet with self-satisfaction.

I was so right, in fact, that I didn’t even have to read a book to know I was right. I didn’t need to read the biology books because they were full of lies. Science was always trying to “explain everything” and that we should just trust in God more.

Carbon dating was a joke because, didn’t my teacher know, that someone in my church told me that scientists somewhere had carbon dated a living turtle and the results said it was 10,000 years old? But the reality was that there was no study. It was just a guy at my church.

It was just a willfully ignorant, brain-dead drone repeating mindless drivel that the other lemmings had been mumbling to themselves. And I digested it and I repeated it. And it felt good to be right.

But then something interesting happened to me later in life. It was life-changing. It, quite literally, quite fundamentally, rocked my entire world.

I read a book.

Nothing in particular. I just read a book.

looked at what was presented and for the first time in my life I realized that I only believed what I believed because I had been told to not look at the other side. Stand by your faith. Be strong. There is no value to their opinions. You have the truth. You have the answer. You don’t even need to consider another side. And when you are tempted to look and consider, just remember that The Dark One is tempting you. Come back to safety, my little sheep.

But when I looked, when I read, when I ingested, when I saw, when I thought, when I took the bite of the Apple from the Tree of Knowledge, my eyes and my mind opened and I saw.

I Saw.

I saw that the idea of the world being created in seven thousand years was not only preposterous but one that was borderline absolutely insane. And I don’t use that lightly. I use it like mental ward, asylum, existing outside of reality insane.

It was Insane what I had believed for the past TWENTY-FIVE YEARS. That is a fucking long time to be, by any standard, super-stupid.

And then… The Internet. We were no longer living in caves. We were no longer illiterate. We were no longer sourcing our facts from distant philosophers and great thinkers. We didn’t even have to go to the library to get a book anymore. We didn’t even have to get it from our teachers. The Internet – it was a portal into the purest knowledge and it sits inside of our back pocket. With a few quick key-strokes, you could have a nearly unending supply of information from any and all sides of any and all topics.

There are two kinds of people, in my opinion, that are allowed to be Creationists. The first are the elderly. Many of them don’t have access to the internet. Bad eyes. Tired. Etc. The other group are children who can’t read.

Everyone in between those two groups no longer has any excuse for not taking the time to properly educate themselves on their own biological history. Pure ignorance is no longer acceptable with Time Warner. The internet has taken every single other reasonable option completely off the table. If you don’t know, you aren’t looking.

Reminds me of my kids. “I can’t find my shoes!

“Then you aren’t looking. They’re sitting right by the door.”

“Oh.”

There is an amazing amount of anger and contempt that exists inside of me for having ever been told that all of this – our world – was made recently. It infuriates me that I was encouraged to be ignorant. It upsets me – truly – that I was taught such wild and inconceivable tales.

I like to tell myself that it was different for me when I was younger. The Internet was picking up but wasn’t nearly as ingrained in our daily lives as it is today. Today, I tell myself, if you believe the world was created less than ten thousand years ago, you are committing the greatest sin of all.

You are choosing to intentionally remain willfully ignorant in the face of facts and endless amounts of evidence.

Carbon dating doesn’t work because–

Because you don’t understand it. That’s why. And you don’t understand it because you refuse to try to understand it. And that’s just lazy.

In the age of YouTube, you can learn about how carbon dating works in a four minute video.

Today I sit down and I look at two options and I say to myself…

OPTION 1

Slowly, slowly, slowly, over the course of great amounts of time, life developed on this planet, growing from a small force, to a Force to be Reckoned with. We see this drama of life play out over and over again with plants, animals and even the cycles of the seasons. It is repeatable and predictable.

OPTION 2

God farted everything out in six days and humanity in one. Nothing like this has ever happened before or since. No one was there. No one saw it. There is no evidence of it except for a book with no author. A glove that doesn’t fit.

 

Now, if I’m sitting in a courtroom and I have to decide which of these I’m choosing…. I mean, Option 2 feels like a story a kid would write. It feels objectively silly when you stack it against the other and A//B them like that.

It is laughable (but also horrifying) to think there are people (adults) who select OPTION B. Who are these people? What makes them select something that is so entirely and clearly wrong? You can have a vacation on the beautiful beaches of Hawaii or we can send you to Guantanamo Bay, where you will be tortured for weeks on end! The choice is yours!

I don’t know, Bob…. OPTION….B?

Here’s another multiple choice, this one a little closer to reality.

OPTION A

Particles in the clouds create electric charge, build up and cause lightening.

OPTION B

God is throwing lightening bolts.

One of them has facts and things we can observe and read about and replicate. One of them is a fortune cookie that was written by people before people knew what science was. It’s crazy how easy this test is. It’s crazy how many people fail.

It is tremendously disturbing to me when I have conversations with people who are Fundamental Creationists and I realize that they vote.

Individuals – and quite a large group of them – who are unable to review information from both sides and make a rational decision on their own are able to vote and craft the voice of our country. It is terrifying to me. They aren’t listening to themselves. They aren’t reading. So how do they decide? They just wait for someone to tell them what to do, where to stand, how to think. In the game of chess, these are called Pawns and they are disposable because there are so many of them. In real life we call these Pawns soldiers and we send them to die for some purpose. I think it has to do with protecting our fence or our oil or our God – or is it our freedom? I can’t keep up with it.

 

More than bashing on the population base of Creationists (which I’m also doing because it really does deeply upset me at my core level), I am writing to say that I am so thankful that I have been broken from the bondage of faith. Faith is the enemy of intelligence. And lack of intelligence is the enemy of Man. And Willful Ignorance is Evil Incarnate.

The question that was posed to me during a church class echoes back through my mind. Why does science have to try and EXPLAIN everything?

Today I understand that the answer is not the problem. That is just a crazy-stupid question. CRAZY stupid.

Because if we lived in a world where we didn’t try to explain things, we wouldn’t progress, we would still be living in caves yelling at Kronk to just put down that fucking wheel. Listen, Kronk! If God wanted us to have fire, he would have given it to us! Quit dabbling in The Dark Arts!

 

In 2018, Fundamentalism is not fun. But it is mental. Like crazy. Like fucking bonkers. Like the chicken from Moana seeing the wall but just walking directly into it over and over again.

Evidence of the wall does not matter. Keep marching. Keep marching. Keep marching. Evidence does not matter. Evidence not matter. Evidence does not matter. I am right. I am right. I am right. I sleep at night. God loves me. Amen.

I hope I’ve adequately offended you enough to at least go YouTube something. SOMETHING. Challenge your beliefs. Challenge yourself. Open yourself to the idea that you actually may be stupid like I was, marching around publicly proclaiming how under-developed my brain was.

Larger than 9-11. Larger than Area-51. Larger than Crop Circles. The idea that millions and millions and millions of people believe, without evidence, that the Earth is 7,000 years young is The Ultimate Conspiracy Theory. At that point you might as well believe that the Earth is flat and that the Sun commits to doing large circles around us.

Open the trap-door. Look into the darkness. Then jump down into it.

What if I’ve spent my whole life believing a lie?

No! Your brain immediately shrieks in response. It’s too insane to even consider. The Dark One again, tempting you with knowledge.

Better to be what God desires me to be – an ostrich with my head shoved down into the sand, listening to the gentle hum of my own heartbeat, ensuring me that I and I alone, am saved.

I think back on my Biology Classroom Experience and I shutter with embarrassment. How much patience that teacher had with me, I’ll perhaps never know. How much empathy he had for me, I’ll never know either but I look back at myself and I look out at people I know who still believe these things and it feels like my heart breaks for them. I’m so sad that they live such shallow, unsaturated, lives with boring belief systems that shrink down the magnanimous beauty of our ever-expanding universe into a novelty trinket that can be contained in four words and be mindlessly repeated by any child old enough to mimic.

God can do anything.

You could probably even teach it to a parrot.

God can do anything.

Including make a race of apes that know how to pull a trigger but not read, it seems.

God can do anything.

Including encouraging you to believe an enormous story with zero evidence. Heads up, that happens anywhere else in life and you would be called a raving lunatic.

Water does not come out of my sink through the pipes. I turn on my God-faucet and Jesus juice pours out. It looks like it comes from the pipes. But it doesn’t. It comes from the … Jesus Juice place….

Are you a raving lunatic?

Perhaps.

I was. Shrieking outlandish and incoherent thoughts in my biology class. There was no reason to learn.

I already knew everything.

What a sad, pathetic little creature I was. So wrapped up in my own absolute certainty that I left no room for exploration.

I am so thankful for the internet and books and knowledge and science and academics and philosophers and people who think and inspire us all to think and to lead mentally active life-styles. I am so thankful that I live in a world wherein I am not just allowed but encouraged, to learn and expand my intellectual horizons.

I’m going to wrap this up with my own personal beliefs, which are an opinion and which, like the rest of this post, is probably pretty offensive.

If you take your children to church, but don’t watch BBC Planet Earth with them, you are doing our society a great disservice. You are harming mankind by intentionally closing malleable minds off from information that would make them Greater Than. You are intentionally stunting their growth and handicapping their ability to problem solve and use critical thinking skills.

But my faith is important to me!

Well, ignorance is bliss. And you look very blissful.

Very blissful.

Also, you can teach your child about love and forgiveness and compassion without teaching them about impossible magic that fucks with their heads and leaves them with a gap between imagination and reality for the rest of their lives.

I shudder, thinking to myself again that these people with wildly low IQs not only vote, but own guns.

In the most ironic tone I can muster, I end with, God help us.

And if God can’t, Science help us.

albert-einstein-god

 

 

 

 

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The Monkey

Colombia Animals

A monkey is born in captivity.

It’s a teenie, tiny little monkey with big monkey eyes that make you go, “Ohhhhh,” and, “Aaaaaahhhh,” in all of the most wonderful ways.

The monkey’s parents were also born in captivity. They’ve lived their entire lives inside of a cage. It’s a large cage and they can walk around and do a little swinging and there’s a place to sleep but it’s still a cage. A great big cage with bars. And it’s very unlikely that the monkey – any of them – will ever get out.

There are zoo keepers at this place and they tend the monkeys. Every day they give them food and they give them water and they change their bedding and they encourage them to breed and the monkeys think it’s a pretty darn good fit, getting pampered like this.

But the monkeys don’t know that they’re living in a cage.

They are ignorant.

They think they are free because the zoo keepers have made them believe that their caged world is the real world. They’ve put in trees and grass and everything. And because the monkeys (and their parents and grand-parents) were born into this cage as well, they believe and trust the zoo keepers because they believe their parents and all the other monkeys that say the same thing. This is the way it is. The zoo keepers have our interest at heart. They are good.

And this is how the zoo keepers like it.

Because ignorant monkeys are easy to control. No surprise our academic system is so poor. If we can keep the kids stupid early, there’s a good chance we’ll have a room full of pliable adults that can be guided by religion and hocus-pocus instead of critical thinking.

Who knows what would happen if the monkeys understood that they were living inside of a cage that were a sad fraction of the size of true reality? How displeased would the monkeys become, knowing that they’ve been shafted from Life’s True Experience?

How would the monkeys feel, knowing they’d been bamboozled by the powers that be?

How would the monkeys feel, finding out they’d spent decades and decades, wasting their lives in tiny cages and everything they thought they knew was misunderstood at best and an outright lie at the worst. If they understood they were in a cage, would they try to get out? Or would they remain complacent because maybe being in a cage isn’t so bad. At least you don’t have to think and all of your base needs are taken care of for you. Sure, they have to blindly pay taxes and social security for which they’ll never receive the funds back but at least they get the food from The Keepers.

Poor monkeys don’t realize that they’re slaves being controlled by creatures that are smarter than they are, running laps around their simple simeon brains. The zoo keepers make lots and lots and lots of money keeping the monkeys in a cage. The zoo makes lots and lots of money. Everyone is happy. Even the monkeys, who continue to think they’re free because the zoo keepers tell them so.

The moment the little baby monkey arrived in captivity, the zoo keepers forced an identity on it, giving it a name, a label. They also give it a number. They tell it where it was born and give it a national identity. They explain that other monkeys from other places aren’t as great. And monkeys who believe in other gods aren’t as great. And monkeys who are controlled by other zoo keepers aren’t as wonderful. And these zoo keepers are the best, so says these zoo keepers. And the monkeys don’t read international news and so they don’t know the difference between a truth and a lie. The zoo keepers feed the monkey ideas of religion and politics but they only tell the story that they want the monkey to hear. They don’t tell the whole story. Only the good bits that cast the zoo keepers in a positive light.

And the monkeys stay in the cage.

The cage is a psychological one that we have each been placed within. It is only by recognition of this psychological cage that we are able to step outside of it. Religion makes good people do evil things in the name of Imagination. Politics uses religion to bend the will of the masses. Banks control the world. You work three months a year in order to pay the government in taxes, which in turn go to pay off a national debt that can never be fully paid back.

They have us running on an infinite hamster wheel, voting in the next fool who is paid to do as the banks request.

Government workers are not bought by the banks. The banks are the government and they pay their employees, the political figures of our nation, to follow their orders.

Gotta find the key to get out of the cage or they’ll keep us in here until we die. And once we get out we can begin to ask ourselves who is paying the zoo keepers? Who owns the zoo?

 

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Star Wars: The Last Jihad

 

3j20nabarpsy

 

What is a story? What value do stories play in our culture? Do they contain any value? Are they simply the things we use to pass the time? A good book, a fine film, a tall tale before bed.

Or can stories be something greater than that? Are stories the DNA of our culture, the history of our people – both where we’re from and where we’re heading. “Our people” being whatever culture class you happen to belong to; race, religion, sexual preference, generation, geographic location, political affiliation, economic status, etc.

What happens when stories – fictitious fantasy tales – become something a little more real? What happens when the story begins writing the people and not the other way around?

A story writing people!? That’s insane!

I agree. But the world is filled with insane people with even more insane ideas. So even though it’s weird and wild, maybe it isn’t unbelievable.

If you’re anything like me, perhaps the story that was told to you sounds something like this…

“America is the best country on Earth and you should be honored to live here, Johnny. Brave and courageous people have sacrificed their lives so that you could be free. God, The God, The One-And-Only Jesus Christ made manifest, name above all names, is for the USA. We are cowboys and good guys and we’re rebels but we have the faith of Christ and He shall guide us to thwart Evil, in all of its heinous forms. Things that are evil include, but are not limited to: pedophiles, homosexuals and Mormons.”

That’s one version of the Midwest-Conservative-Christian story. Maybe you didn’t get that one. You might have gotten something else that sounded more like this…

“I pledge allegiance to the flag.”

That’s a powerful story told in one sentence. Only six words long. But the story it tells…

PLEDGE: a solemn promise or agreement.

ALLEGIANCE: loyalty or devotion to some person, group or cause.

FLAG: Symbol of person, group or cause.

My children are seven but, since they were five, the public school system has had them reciting this story to themselves. I go to their school functions and I listen to my children make a solemn promise to ally their loyalty to a government and country which they don’t understand.

A solemn promise to remain loyal. On repeat. Everyday. For a seven year old.

One more definition before we continue.

Mind control (also known as brainwashing, coercive persuasion, mind abuse, thought control, or thought reform) refers to a process in which a group or individual “systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person.

I guess we could further define “unethically manipulative” if we wanted to, but I’d define it as “having a child repeat something every day of his or her life in the hopes that they grow up willing to voluntarily murder another human being for you.”

Just my opinion.

 

So I have to wonder if that story begins to write the person. If that small sentence begins to write the story for my children instead of the other way around. Instead of my children witnessing the greatness of a fantastic culture and being swayed by it’s awesome power and empathy towards the hurting and hungry, which would then in turn cause authentic loyalty, we instead tell them a story over. And over. And over. And over. Until the story is true and there is no choice but to believe the lie.

And the story starts to write the person, making “truths” into “reality”.

If we tell ourselves everyday that we are stupid and ugly and unworthy of success and human kindness, we will see the world watching us and judging us as stupid and ugly and unworthy of success and human kindness.

Because we don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.

And the things we tell ourselves make us who we are.

I pledge allegiance to the flag.

Do you? Really?

 

This isn’t a post about the Pledge of Allegiance and how I think it’s brainwashing all of us. I do think that and I don’t recite it but that is neither here nor there. I do love America. But I also love Cuba and France and Iraq. Because I love Earth and people, not people defined by a piece of land they live on or a god they worship or who is putting their D* where.

*dick

This is a post about stories and the power they have over us.

Here’s another story. Maybe you’ve seen this one.

“The Empire is wreaking galactic havoc. The Dark Lord is taking control. Only one small group of Rebels can save us.” That’s a very old story. One that’s been told over and over and over as well. From the twelve disciples to Harry Potter to the founding of our very own country, The Rebel Rising Story has been told. And we love it.

But most recently it’s been portrayed in Star Wars: The Last Jedi a film in which, after two viewings I still have mixed feelings about it. But I say that in a good way. It was a film that made me step out of the theater and think for a bit. Ponder perplexing proposals.

Not only does the film ask us to redefine The Force, it also asks us to redefine how we perceive Good and Evil – the forces that pull us in our own lives. It’s been so easy for so long to point at something and say Black or White. Good or Evil. Harry Potter or Lord Voldemort. Christian or Other. American or Other. Rebel or Empire. Jedi or Sith. Yin or Yang. This or That.

But what happens when, through the usage of technology, the internet and social media, our world begins to shrink and people we thought we knew and understood as evil, suddenly begin to seem a little less strange? What happens when we uncover the gray area that surrounds all of us and see that we have more in common than we have apart? What happens when we stop looking at life as a Black-or-White-This-or-That switch and instead begin looking at it as a 4-Dimensional spectrum of rotating color. More a piece of art and less a technical analysis.

Suddenly, things look a little different.

What happens when the way we see the world doesn’t line up with the story we’ve been told?

What happens when I’ve pledged my allegiance to a country, flag, organization because they are the best the world has, both in power and morality, but then you learn that your heroes are flawed. What happens if you find out they’re not just flawed by amoral? What happens when you discover that the group you’ve pledged to – made that solemn vow since you were five – were not only amoral, but what happens when you decide that they don’t have your best interests at heart at all and that they are only manipulating you with lies to keep you as ignorant and passive as possible so that you continue to recite your story and pay your taxes and keep your head down and pull the trigger to kill The Enemy.

Here’s another story, this one is from The Last Jedi.

The film opens up and there’s this fantastic space battle happening. The Empire has cornered the Rebels and they’re getting ready to finally 86 them. But by God, there’s one last hope. There’s this Rebel-ship that is strapped with explosives. Some kind of cruiser hits the Rebel Ship and the soldier in charge of hitting The Big Red Button that drops these bombs onto the enemy ship, has been thrown to the ground and can’t get up. Maybe her back is broken. I don’t totally know. They don’t really get into that.

But what I do know is that she can still kick. Really hard. So she kicks this ladder. Over and over and over again. Because at the top of the ladder is The Big Red Button. And if she can get The Big Red Button, she can drop the bombs on the Empire ship and blow shit up. Another win for the good guys.

So she’s kicking this ladder and the music is building up, as it does. And she reaches up and she grabs this medallion around her neck. It looks like some kind of crescent with runic notations on it.

The Force. The symbol of The Force, their great religion. For which to fight. For which to die. For which to kill.

It’s her sign of hope. Her prayer. Her flag. Her cross. She holds her symbol and kicks one more time. The Big Red Button drops, she catches it and the bombs fall. Mission successful. The Empire takes a big hit.

Here’s another scene from the same movie. Towards the end the Rebels have gotten cornered in a kind of mine on a salt planet. The last of our heroes are tucked into this little bunker and right outside is Death.

But Rebels never say die.

Here come our rebels. They fly out of the mine in their shitty little cruisers flip-flopping all over the place. The floors are falling out. They’re wobbling about. These guys are really boot-strapping the war effort but this is it.

Main Character Finn, a storm trooper who deserted his post to join the Rebels finds himself hurtling towards some kind of Important Empire Vehicle that is resting on the ground. It’s a big machine that is blowing out heat and is going to kill everyone. Finn’s plan, albeit a last minute plan, is to save his team by flying his ship directly up the heat stream, into the engine turbine, effectively destroying The Important Empire Vehicle, killing himself and allowing The Rebels, the good guys, to live another day.

I have never experienced a theater of Americans emotionally cheering so hard for a suicide bomber.

But that’s the power of story.

That’s the power of narrative.

Story is a powerful tool that allows us to see the same thing from two different sides.

Here’s one more story…

“You are from a poor land but it’s because God favors the meek. Our people have been chosen by The Great One. All others only desire evil. Evil must be eradicated because it is against God, pure GOOD. Rebels, join me. Rebels, rise up. Rebels, come together. Rebels, come to fight. Rebels, here is a plan. Rebels, let us take these planes and Rebels, let us fly them into the World Trade Center in the United States, that land of The Empire. Guide us o’ Great Religion! Let us come out of our caves and cobble together whatever plan we can in order to make peace. In order to save the world. In order to bring peace… through destroying our enemies.”

I have to wonder how many times those men in those planes reached up to touch their symbol hanging from their neck to draw encouragement and bravery. I have to wonder how many times those men, as young men, were asked to recite a Pledge to their Higher Power.

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a lollipop?

How many repetitions does it take to get to the center of your brain? A prayer. A pledge. Once a day your entire childhood and developmental years should do the trick.

Do you know why Star Wars: The Last Jedi and 911 are not the same thing? Beyond, one is real and one is not? They’re not the same thing because of where we happen to be sitting when the event occurred. And our personal position in the process is what makes all the difference.

It is not good or evil.

It is good. To us.

And evil. To us.

And because we are thoughtless, tiny, self-centered, idiotic beasts, filled with self-importance, we often times can’t see that we cheer and recoil from the exact same things. Because, while we tell ourselves a story that we are smart and educated and self-aware and “woke”, we are truly nothing more than advanced mushrooms reacting to the simple emotional stimuli of our environment as pre-programmed into us by our culture.

Simple life forms who’s self-awareness only gives them the illusion of complexity.

“If they are not like us, we must devour them. Destroy them. Conform or you will be conquered.” This is the mantra of the Radical Islamist Terrorists that attacked America on 911.

And because of that, it was evil.

However, this was also the mantra of the Europeans when they arrived on the scene and found To-Be America crowded with Indians // Native Americans // Indigenous People.

This will never do. No shirts, no shoes, no civilization.

“Conform or you will be conquered.”

After all, if we’re to compare apples to apples, around 3000 people were killed on 911 but I have to wonder how many Indigenous People found themselves shot before having their infants get their brains bashed in by the boot-heels of hungry American settlers.

Die, savage.

Also, why don’t they just get over it? Why don’t the Indians just get over that genocide thing? Chin up, buckaroo! Why don’t the blacks just get over slavery? C’mon, chief! It was only human trafficking, rape and torture! Get over it already! Why ya gotta be such a cry-baby!

Shrugs. Why don’t we just get over 911?

Why don’t we just get over an absolutely horrendous human atrocity that was committed directly against our “group”, in which we / I / you felt the personal emotional attack of?

We don’t get over it because the story we tell ourselves regarding 911 is that there are good guys and there are bad guys and we for sure know the difference. We for sure know where everyone is standing and who is who because we have the script. We have the story.

But our sons and daughters!

But everyone’s sons and daughters.

As an outsider not from this Earth, I see it and say this is a true tragedy.

I’m just talking about the power of story. Just as an observation.

We’re interesting creatures, aren’t we? We love to define everything in our world. We love to say if something is good or evil and, by God, if something is evil, it cannot exist in our world. Our reality. Our version of reality.

Indigenous People on our land. Gay couples and wedding cakes. Black folk in our schools and a goddamn atheist living right down the street from me in my Christian nation! How is a person supposed to live in a world filled with so much diversity?

How is a person to function in a culture filled with so many people that are nothing like me?

How do we listen instead of judge? How do we remove judgement entirely and replace it with a calm sense of understanding? Jesus tried this and it got him hooked to a tree. Martin Luther King tried it and it got him the long goodnight.

We don’t want peace! We want blood! Because we are cavemen in suits and we are only feigning being civilized.

I believe we must ask ourselves if the stories we’ve been telling ourselves… are even true. Even the ones that seem the truest. Even the ones closest and most dearest to us.

My God, could it be that the very story I’m telling myself is as insane as the ones that everyone else is telling themselves? Could it be? Could it be that I am… wrong? That is a very uncomfortable feeling to face.

Being raised in a Christian home, I was raised to believe that my beliefs were authentic and real and everyone else had imposter relations with an improper God that was basically Satan masquerading himself.

But not my beliefs. Not my stories. Not our stories. Our stories were real. Everything else was a lie.

Our God was real. He was the only one that was real. All other religious experiences that any single person throughout history on the face of the Earth outside of my very specific belief system were merely… false. Lies. They were being misled by The Evil One.

Our country was the greatest. The biggest, baddest mother-fucker on the block and we’ll kick your ass if you fuck with us. We were also the kindest.

Wait just a minute! That doesn’t make sense. Are we kind and we take in the poor and feed the hungry or are we a bully who shows up to a knife fight?

I guess it just depends who’s telling you the story and where you happen to be sitting.

What stories have been told to you?

What stories are you telling yourself?

Maybe your story is that you aren’t good enough. That you aren’t talented enough. Smart enough. Savvy enough. Maybe the story you tell yourself is that you don’t deserve That Job. That Spouse. That Money. That Opportunity.

Maybe you tell yourself a personal story that puts you automatically in second place because you don’t think you have what it takes to be in first. Or maybe you’re like me and told yourself a story your entire life where you put yourself in last place over and over again, thinking that you didn’t deserve something, anything, because you weren’t good enough for it. Those things were for other people.

And if that’s the story you tell yourself, you’re probably right. In fact, you definitely are.

Because our stories craft our realities.

If we don’t write our own stories, if we don’t craft our own truths and our own realities, if we don’t tell ourselves who we are and decide for ourselves, then our stories – a random collection of gathered information passed down arbitrarily from one ape mouth to the next, completely unquestioned – write us.

Maybe you’ve allowed someone else in your life to write your story. Maybe it wasn’t Mother Culture for you. Maybe it was a close person or close people. Your family. Your parents. Your spouse. Your roommate. Perhaps you’ve given them the pen and allowed them to tell you that you don’t deserve something or are unworthy of something. Perhaps you keep reading the story they write for you. Those people are terrible authors. Throw away their book. Don’t ask for your pen back. Just take it back.

I wonder what happens if we all begin telling ourselves a new story. A story that doesn’t need a God or a Government to direct us. A story that says, “I am compassionate to all living things, including myself. When I make a mistake, I forgive myself and I try again. When another makes a mistake and harms me, I will forgive them and allow them to try again. But I also won’t put up with bullshit. Because life is too short to be crowded by ignorant assholes trying to ruin the show. I am going to do my best because that is all I have. I am going to believe in myself. I am going to give others, regardless of who or what they align with, nothing but understanding and sympathy because I don’t know what it’s like to be anyone except me. I acknowledge that my field of vision is very narrow. But I’m working on scoping it out.

I don’t know what it’s like to be gay or black or Mormon or female or a senior citizen or deaf or, gasp, Harvey Weinstein. I only know what it’s like to be me. That’s all I can really be certain of. And even that seems to be changing day to day.

I understand that conflict occurs. It’s inevitable because we tell ourselves a story that it is inevitable and so we live in a world wherein war is acceptable.

Rape: unacceptable.

Murder: unacceptable

Murder if the President asks you to: HONOR!

Sure, you have to be brainwashed first and give up your right to think but at the end you might just get the little purple heart on your shirt that makes you feel important. My kids get something similar when they do something kind in school. I’m not minimizing. I’m drawing parallels. Because it’s the same logic and neurologically it affects the human brain in the same way. Rewards. It’s the same reason we like getting comments and likes on our social media feeds.

They’re playing us. They’re using our emotions against us. Playing our biology against us. They know this.

God, it’s tragic. The value we place on such horrific acts. Quickly, reward the unquestioning soldier for he is a great tool to us! If we throw him some meat and praise him, he will most certainly do the violent act again!

I believe the quote is, “Forgive them, Father. For they know not what they do.”

Social media. A place to exchange ideas! I have never ever seen so many people talking to themselves before. It’s like a room full of schizophrenics. Everyone talking. Nobody listening.

We can be the Rebels. Being a rebel is cool. I get the appeal. But let’s be the Rebels in real life that stand apart from Herd Mentality.

Why do I believe… what I believe?

What story… is being told to me?

Serious question for the Star Wars junkies out there. Has anyone even bothered to ask what Snoke’s policies look like? Does anyone know what General Hux is trying to accomplish? Or do we judge them because they dress in black and look evil and speak in accents.

We can listen but do we hear?

The African American community screams, “We are being treated unfairly and shot dead in the streets!” and a crowd of decidedly un-black people shout back, “Shut the fuck up and sit down! Stop talking! Stop complaining! Don’t you know this is America! The greatest nation on Earth! Where opportunity is galore for anyone that tries to succeed!”

Never-mind the fantastic poverty rate.

Are we listening or are we hearing?

Can we hear someone of a different faith when we walk into the conversation believing them to be fundamentally wrong? Can we listen to a Republican or a Democrat or a Socialist if we already believe that we are right and they are wrong and we know and they do not? Can we hear someone of a different race or sexual preference if we think that all races and people experience the world exactly like we do, therefore, we are right.

If they only had my information! If they only saw things like I saw things! Then they’d know! If they could only be just like me, this would all be better.

How do we hear a different opinion if we are right.

And how smug do you think a person has to be in order to believe that they have figured out everything? To think that they were able to get an A+ on the Life Test wherein they pegged the correct God amongst thousands, the proper political party amongst several in their country, and also happened to be born in the greatest nation this planet has to offer.

I’ve heard a lot of stories.

And that last one is pretty unbelievable.

A person with nothing left to learn is a person who doesn’t realize how uneducated they are. And an uneducated person is the most dangerous thing of all.

Rebel against that. Rebel against ignorance. Rebel against your own ignorance by first understanding that it is camouflaged into your “truths”. Rebel by learning. Rebel by rising above The Empire and, instead of crushing our enemies beneath our boot-heels like Kylo Ren spraying Luke with the AT-AT blasters, we simply close our eyes and listen and understand that nothing is good nor bad.

Only we are, as viewers of the greatest play on Earth.

 

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I am the Devil (and you might be too)

 

We all know this story.

 

Lucifer is hanging out in Heaven, acting as captain of the cherubic hosts. He (male pronoun used here for simplicity) is basically the worship leader in Heaven. With every movement he makes, there is music. And it is beautiful. But Lucifer becomes jealous of God, gathers up a third of the angels and tries to overthrow The Great One.

 

Lucifer and his “army” lose and God casts them to either Earth or Hell (interpretations vary) and now Lucifer is The Devil and the angels are the demons that we know today.

 

This would be considered a literal translation of Satan’s origin story.

 

But what else can we pull from this story? What else is happening that we are not acknowledging? There are pieces in this simple paragraph that the church (as a very general body) tends to ignore.

 

Based upon this telling, if I am a Literalist (to believe the Bible is word for word accurate with no symbology) I am to also believe that there is such a thing as jealousy in Heaven. Correct?

 

If you are a Heaven-Is-A-Perfect-Place-Where-No-Pain-Exists type of person (which most Literalists are, please correct me if I’m wrong), please do not shut off to this. Based upon the telling from the Bible, Heaven is a place where jealousy exists. And not only jealousy, but hierarchy. Lucifer stood above the other angels.

 

And not only jealousy and hierarchy but hatred, violence, rebellion and punishment.

 

In Heaven.

 

This is not what we have been taught.

 

But this is what is written.

 

How do we come to terms with these two contrasting worlds?

 

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

 

There is, without question, a darkness in the world. There is evil in the world. There is selfishness and greed and hatred. You can turn your TV to any news station, fire up social media or peruse the papers at your local grocery store to see it.

 

Darkness is real.

 

But is The Devil?

 

Have we pinned our every shortcoming on this singular being? Is he our universal scapegoat? Is The Devil responsible for tempting us at every occasion? Are demons responsible for tempting us at every occasion? Are there so many creatures of darkness that each of them lingers with each of us, constantly tempting and whispering words into our ears? Is that how we think we exist? And does that sound medieval? Demons whispering in our ears.

 

Do we believe that we are inherently good people and it is only by the temptation of dark forces that we do evil?

 

Or… is that evil inside of us?

 

Is The Devil inside of me?

 

Am I The Devil?

 

Could the snake in the garden that tempted our perfect heroes be nothing more than symbolic of our own wants and desires?

 

What is the first sin we commit as humans? We disobey.

 

“Rory, clean your room.”

 

“No.”

 

Just like Adam and Eve. Or “Adam and Eve”.

 

Does darkness and light, good and bad, God and Satan, exist within me and you and everyone at every moment of every day? Are we each, as individuals, capable of doing what is right or wrong with our free will at any moment?

 

Here’s a personal confession that isn’t really a personal confession at all.

 

I love pornography.

 

Love it.

 

I could watch it all day long. Just sit down with a bowl of popcorn and let it rip. Video after video after video. Non-stop. 24/7. Weekends and holidays.

 

Now, it should be noted that I do NOT do this.

 

I do not watch pornography.

 

But I want to.

 

I choose not to. It is my choice that creates my actions. And it is my actions that define my character. Same for all of us.

 

We are each, as men, addicted to pornography.

 

Our male brains are hardwired, like magnets, to draw us to those images. We are born with that compulsion. Ladies, if your fella is telling you that he doesn’t like pornography, watch out, because you have got a liar on your hands and he is telling you things just to keep you satiated. If a man produces testosterone, he wants naked women. As many as possible. As often as possible.

 

This want is not a threat to the sanctity of your marriage or the commitment of your relationship. This is a burning in his very human nature. And it cannot be shaken.

 

And now you say, “Nah, my husband is not like that.”

 

And then I say, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he does not exist.”

 

If you don’t think that darkness is there, it’s because you are being fooled. There is darkness in each of us. But it is our choice to be swallowed by it or to shine light on it. Light in our thoughts. Light in our actions. Light in our words.

 

Now I’m going to take that popular phrase a step further and say that the greatest trap we, as humans, ever fell into was believing that we were not subject to darkness. That we were somehow above darkness.

 

You are not above darkness. You are not above selfishness. You are not above greed.

 

Nobody is.

 

Liking something. Wanting something. Being drawn to something. And actually indulging in that something are very, very different things.

 

Now, without going off on too much of a tangent, I do want to quickly acknowledge that there are various schools of thoughts on pornography – some people think it’s fine and some people find it repulsive / sinful / harmful. I tend to be of the latter group because, even though the act itself is being committed by two or more consenting individuals, the people experiencing it in the privacy of their home are, at the very least, being brainwashed to believe that sex is a certain way. And I believe this is very damaging to the individual.

 

This is my opinion. You are obviously free to disagree. (High-five for respectful diversity!)

 

That said, I am opposed to brainwashing in all of its various forms – cultural, religious, sexual, analytical, creative, etc. We should not be told what or how to think. If given certain data, the truth should be self-evident.

 

For example, does extended exposure to pornography affect the way in which a man views a woman? Does it alter our opinion of what women should be capable of / interested in? Does it alter our expectations of our wives?

 

If the answer is yes to any of these, then it’s brainwashing.

 

If you were raised in the jungle with one woman as your partner, you would still desire her sexually but your wants and actions would not be formed by things you had witnessed. We choose to be victims of our environments.

 

The devil is not tempting you.

 

You are fighting your culture and your human nature. And it is a difficult uphill battle. But we must admit that we are fighting a battle. And we must admit that we are fighting a battle with ourselves. It isn’t until we know who our enemy is that we can begin to overcome them.

 

We need to adjust our cultural perspective on darkness – what the church likes to call sin or what humanity calls immorality. Being drawn to the darkness is not immoral. We are each drawn to the darkness in our own way. We are each selfish in our own way and, ultimately, doesn’t each sin come down to a form of selfishness? To sum up sin would be to say, “Putting oneself before another.” Murder, envy, lust, greed, lying, stealing, etc. It’s all really different forms of the same thing. But these are natural human traits. Survival at all cost came with us when we arrived in the universe. Batteries included.

 

Being drawn to a thing does not make you a bad person.

 

Making a decision to be a part of that darkness is where things spiral out of control.

 

I don’t believe that’s Satan whispering in our ear. That’s us.

 

That’s our own wants and desires.

 

You’re sitting at a dinner table and you’re stuffed. You’re so full. You’re going to puke. But then dessert shows up and you take just a couple more bites because it looks so delicious.

 

That’s gluttony. Your body is begging you to stop poking food into it and you just keep on truckin’. You think a demon is sitting at The Cheesecake Factory, prodding you on, encouraging you to have one more bite? Does that thought sound silly? It should.

 

That’s you.

 

Those are your decisions.

 

The Devil is not in you.

 

The Devil is you.

 

And you create the darkness in the world. When you choose not to share. When you talk about someone behind his or her back. When you insult someone, whether in his or her presence or not. When you choose to ignore a hungry person. When you pressure your wife / girlfriend to do something they’re not comfortable with. When you steal something, even a tiny thing that nobody will probably ever notice is missing because really, they weren’t using it anyways…

 

That’s you. That’s you creating darkness in the world.

 

Don’t worry about the splinter in your brother’s eye until you’ve removed the timber from your own. That’s a biblical truth that I think anyone, regardless of faith, can apply productively to their lives.

 

Maybe stop worrying about The Devil and start worrying about yourself.

 

Start thinking about each moment. Each day. Each word. Each decision that you have to make. You bring either darkness or light with every action that you make.

 

If The Devil is real, he only exists within the temptations themselves. He does not cause the temptation but is the temptation.

 

Likewise, I don’t think that God causes the kindness. God exists within the kindness. God is the kindness.

 

And we choose to cast light or we choose to cast shadows.

 

Go forward.

 

Cast light.

 

And thanks for coming to church on a Wednesday 🙂

 

***Subscribe for updates. New blog every Wednesday – friends, family, life, death kids and adventure. And on Mondays we’re currently releasing a fiction in 10 parts called The Spiraling Cornucopia of Pale Lavender. Part one linked to the left and the intro is linked here. It’s a tale of evolving consciousness through many different plains of reality. If that sounds weird enough to check out, you should.

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The Genesis of Observation

 

In our beginning, existence was formless and empty, darkness and abyss were over the surface of the cosmos. The Observer witnessed the creation of space and time.

And The Observer witnessed a great star ignite in the abyss, burning hydrogen and creating heat. The Observer noted that with light came darkness. Millions of years passed.

And The Observer witnessed gases collect around mass and create atmosphere and The Observer noted: This will contain the elements necessary for life and will protect the inhabitants from elsewhereSlowly, the atmosphere formed. 8Millions of years passed.

And The Observer witnessed pressures underground shift the plates of the planets and the low spots began to gather water and the high spots began to gather snow if the elements allowed. 10 The Observer witnessed the formation of dry ground and the formation of seas. And after millions of years, The Observer noted that it was good.

11Then The Observer witnessed vegetation evolve from the soil. The land produced many seed-bearing plants and many trees that bore fruit with seed within them. 12 And after millions of years, The Observer noted that it was good. 13 Time passed.

14 And The Observer witnessed more hydrogen atoms begin to ignite in the cosmos across vast distances. And The Observer noted that constellations could serve as signs to mark time passing from other shores, 15 and the stars gave light to the Earth and everywhere.” 16 The Observer witnessed Alpha Centauri ignite, which would warm Earth and The Observer witnessed gravity draw the moon into the orbit of the Earth. 17 The Observer noted that the moon reflected light from the sun back onto Earth at night, 18 and new evolutions began. And after millions of years, The Observer noted that it was good.19 Time passed.

20 And The Observer witnessed the individual cells of life continue to multiply and witnessed them evolve. The Observer witnessed them divide in the water and crawl towards the land. The Observer witnessed them evolve wings to fly in the air across the sky. 21 The Observer witnessed the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it evolve, according to their kinds, and every winged bird evolve, according to its kind. And after millions of years, The Observer noted that it was good. 22 The Observer also noted that the creatures continued to divide. 23 Time passed.

24 And The Observer witnessed creatures evolve from the sea and walk upon the land: the livestock, the creatures that moved along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind. 25 The Observer witnessed the wild animals, the livestock, and all the creatures that moved along the ground, evolve and change. And after millions of years, The Observer noted that it was good.

26 Then The Observer witnessed their brains evolve conscience and self awareness and witnessed them becoming more intelligent than their ancestors had been so that they could care for them; the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, and the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and all the creatures that moved along the ground.

27 So The Observer witnessed the creatures evolve,
with self awareness and consciousness, both sexes evolved;
male and female both evolved together.

28 The Observer noted, I hope they are kind to one another; it is a great thing to care for the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and every living creature that moves on the ground.

29 Then The Observer noted: Their bodies have evolved to fit this planet perfectly. They can sustain themselves on the vegetation of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.

31 After billions of years, The Observer noted: the machine works. Time continued to pass.

 

 

 

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Where Do Babies Come From?

While visiting our in-laws in Montana and patiently awaiting the arrival of our newest tribesmen, Jade and I decided to dip out and take a walk with the kids. Turning the corner on an overcast day, Quinn asked me, no doubt with thoughts of pregnant women on the brain, “How do babies get inside the mommy’s tummy?”

This train of logic makes sense. We show up to Montana, telling the children that Aunt Katie is going to have a baby. We tell the kids that there is a baby in her tummy. Green light, green light, green light. Who the heck put that thing there?

Gotta be honest. I was a little caught off guard with that one. I had certainly thought about what it would be like having that talk with my daughter and I’ve thought about what I’d say but I’d never actually come to any kind of conclusion. I’d never thought I will say THIS. I mean, even if you’re going to shoot totally straight about it, there’s no clean way to say, “A man gets an erection – uh, that’s when his penis gets really hard, and then he sticks it into a woman and rubs it until he ejaculates inside of her – oh, ejaculate is like this creamy puddy stuff. Yeah, it’s pretty gross. So anyway, the man shoots this creamy pudding stuff into the woman’s vagina and then badda-bing, bodda-boom, the baby is there.”

It’s gross, right? You’re cringing. No way am I saying that to my five year old. No way am I playing this one straight.

Not yet, anyway.

I just imagine that I damage them so irreparably that every sexual experience they have for the rest of their lives both begins and ends with spells of shivering and vomiting.

Anyway, I’m like, “You know our garden and how we pick vegetables?” “Yeah,” “And you know how we plant a seed and then a plant grows?” “Yeah,” “A daddy plants a seed in the mommy. And the seed grows into a baby and when the baby is ready, we pick it.”

I say, “Does that make sense?” and she says, “Yes,” and then peddles away on her big wheel. What is happening? I’m having sex talks with my children. I was in high school yesterday. How did I get here?

Well, as it turns out, who the heck put that thing there turned into who the heck put me here which turned into who the heck put us all here?

This is a process of several days, understand. She’d ask a question and it would seem to percolate with her for 24 – 48 hours before she’d come back with the raised ante.

So we’re driving home from Montana and Quinn asks me from the backseat, “Daddy? Where do we come from? I mean, all of us? Did God put us here?”

And this is a role defining moment for me. I was raised in a very traditional Catholic household before leaving the Catholic church and rolling “straight Christian.” My faith has gone through a number of peaks and valleys – or rather, my faith has always been what it is but it is my actions that have seemed to falter. The spirit is strong but the flesh is weak, you know?

And it wasn’t until recently, and probably I could write an entire piece on this, that I’ve begun to seriously question many of the tent pole beliefs of my faith. Was Jesus actually the son of God or was he simply one of the most amazing teachers history has ever seen? Did Jesus resurrect after death? Is God real?

I won’t get into the minutia of it here – perhaps another time – but I’ve found this really divine peace that I’ve never experienced before. I feel free.

My faith was chaining me to the ground. My blind faith only made me blind.

And so I don’t want to tell Quinn that God is real and that she should believe XYZ simply because I’m telling her that it’s true.

And so I let her wonder. So that when she does look for God, it is her own journey and it’s not crafted by me and it’s raw and rich and experiential. Instead of telling her what happens in the movie and how awesome it is, I’m just going to let her go see the movie herself.

I believe that there probably is a God. I believe that it probably isn’t the one that modern Christian culture is having us believe in. I think our perspective of God is disgustingly warped and perverted and I think the Christian faith, overall, is absolutely grotesque masked hatred. While most of the followers walk around preaching peace, they’re sitting on their hands at home, blasting pornography and talking about how important it is to keep men from loving men and how to best keep families that are in desperate need out of our country. Basically standing in direct opposition to Christ’s teachings.

By opposing gay marriage, they are saying, in short, that love should not happen. And by keeping out the Syrian refugees they are saying, in short, that empathy should not happen. They will tell you all day long that they don’t think this but words are wind.

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” That’s James. From the Bible. Calling this brand of religion worthless. 

“And you will know them by their fruits.” That’s Jesus.

Christian church, we all know you by your fruits. And your fruit is rotten and disgusting and it turns the stomach of the world. Your faith is off-putting. It is not attractive. You are not the victim. You are the predator.

Christianity as a whole is very wonderful. The teachings of Jesus can change your life and can change the world. I don’t want what I’m saying to be confused with modern day Christianity, which is – for the most part – just a stiff-necked mannequin. An imposter. A copy of the real thing.

It is a giant, rubber dildo. A phony.

Most (not all) modern day Christians are so consumed with the laws of their faith that they’ve lost the lessons. Modern day Christianity has come full circle and the practitioners are the very Pharisees that crucified Christ.

When the Bible says that you’ll call to God and he’ll say he never knew you, it’s talking about those people. When the Bible says that many are called and few are chosen, it’s talking about those people.

If you believe in the devil, you can rest assured that he’s just kicking back and watching Christians do all his work for him.

And I can’t get behind that way of thinking. And I don’t want to associate myself with any group of people who lead their lives with such fear. I believe in a God that kicks ass in peace. A God that lives inside all of us and in everything. A thing of beauty and love and a thing that we can each connect with in that beauty and love.

And I found this raw experience because I was willing to let go of everything I knew and I would have missed it if I had refused to let go of things that people taught me instead of the things I had experienced for myself. Who God was to me was always who God was to my parents. Does that make sense? My perception of God was crafted by other people.

And I don’t want to craft Quinn’s perspective of who God is. When the Bible says seek and you shall find, I believe this is what it’s talking about. You come look for me. And I’ll be here. I truly believe that. And if you believe that, then cutting your children out into the world shouldn’t be a problem. If you believe that God is great and God is the Ultimate Truth, then if your children seek the Ultimate Truth, they will find your God.

But we’re all afraid they won’t find God. We’re all afraid they’ll find something else. Because when it comes down to it, we have no faith in our faith. And so we nurture our beliefs into them. Better to keep these things in our own hands. Spoon feed them religion.

When I told a number of my Christian friends and family that I was speaking with the door-to-door Mormons and was reading The Book of Mormon, I was told that I should quickly run the other way. When I told a number of my Christian friends and family that I was reading Dianetics, I was told that I should drop it and run the other way.

Never trust an organization, institution or group of individuals, whether that be political, religious or otherwise, that demands you to not seek knowledge elsewhere. When someone suggests that you not look for true knowledge outside of the presented box, they do not have your best interest at heart.
Fear of knowledge is a fear of reality. And a fear of reality leads to a very limited understanding of the world. And a limited understanding of the world leads to a limited understanding of people. And a limited understanding of people leads to fear. Oh, my. That’s certainly cyclical. Look at your people group. Look at your friends. Is it the same people that would tell you to hang tight to your beliefs that would tell you to keep the Syrian refugees out? Is it the same people that would tell you to hang tight to your beliefs that would tell you that gay marriage is an abomination but not be able to tell you why?

Are the people that tend to fear the world the same people that tend to fear knowledge?

When Quinn experiences God, I want her to experience the closest thing she can. And when she looks for God, I want her to look on her own. I want to instill in her a sense of raw wonder of the universe. I love that she’s asking all these questions at five. I love that she’s already seeing the world and going, what is this? What is this? What is that thing? How does this work? She asked me about the sun and planets and outer space the other day and now she’s memorized what most of them look like – she knows that Saturn has rings and Neptune has rings (that go the other way) and Pluto is tiny and Jupiter (which she spells Gupiter) has a big red spot on it and that our planet is blue and she understands that the planets work on a “big loop around the sun.”

I’m like, excuse the French but, what the fuck?

Is this child freaking Carl Sagan reborn?

“Well, Quinn. We came from amoebas.”

Amoebas?” really, truly shocked. “What’s that?”

“It’s like a small thing that’s even smaller than you could ever see. You’d have to have a microscope to see it. It probably traveled here on an asteroid that contained ice when the world was forming.”

“Is it like this small?” and she holds up her fingers pinched almost together.

“Smaller. Way smaller. Like nothing at all.”

And then I try to explain evolution to her but quickly realize that there is just no easy way to explain this to a five year old. You try to talk about things changing and it doesn’t make sense to them and you try to talk about natural selection and it’s just too big an idea because they don’t really understand breeding and passing of traits. Is there not a children’s version of Darwin’s Origin of Species?

So I’m left to try and simply draw connections between monkeys, apes, Neanderthals and modern man. “What animal do humans look like the most, Quinn?”

“Uh… monkeys?”

“That’s right! I’m very impressed that a five year old noticed that.”

 

Crickets.

 

“Over millions and millions of years, monkeys slowly became man.”

“God did not put us here?”

“Well, some people believe that God put us here and some people believe that God put the amoebas here and some people believe…

Are you sure you want to say this? Once it’s out of your mouth, you cannot take it back. Is this a seed you really want to plant? You are about to make a major life decision and this may affect her faith in sweeping ways – in large ripple effects.

“Some people don’t believe in God at all.”

WHAT?!”

She doesn’t ask me if I believe in God.

Sometimes I wonder what I would say if she had…

 

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TEARING OFF THE GIANT HOLY PENIS OF GOD

 Do we put God in a box?

 

The word God is a very heavy one and so let’s break it down a little before we move on. If I say the word dad to someone, they may get fuzzy feelings because their dad was amazing. The word dad has very positive emotional baggage for them.

 

Now, same word, different person. Dad can mean something vicious and upsetting to an individual that was sexually assaulted or abandoned by their father.

 

Let’s simplify this even further.

 

Wine Glass means something positive to an individual who enjoys the intricate tastes and aromas of the drink. However, I have a personal friend who sliced his hand so severely while cleaning a wine glass that he had to undergo extensive surgery and physical therapy before regaining the use of his tendons. He can’t hear the word without shivers running up his spine.

 

We each apply personal emotional baggage, whether that be good or bad, to every word.

 

For someone that received his or her first kiss in a movie theater, it’s a very pleasant thing. For someone who survived a mass shooting inside of one, the word elicits a very different emotional experience.

 

These are all very simple concepts that bring forward very complicated emotions.

 

Let’s try another word.

 

God.

 

Oooh, that’s complex. There are quite a lot of feelings coming to our minds right now and based upon the context of the last few paragraphs, you understand that someone else reading these same words is having a very different thought than you are. We are each experiencing God, in this moment, in very different ways.

 

Let’s mix it up a bit more.

 

Let’s take that idea you have in your head of God, whatever that is, whether it makes you feel nurtured or abandoned, and let’s add another layer onto it.

 

Bible.

 

I’ve written a couple paragraphs here that have made you, with your unique experiences, feel certain things. Just through a simple handful of words you and I have each come to different conclusions and emotional reactions. Now let’s look at a book that is filled with thousands and thousands of words. Some of them are poetic. Some of them are literal. Some of them are parables. Some of them are historical.

 

Now let’s apply each of our personal understandings to those words and you can see how this idea of God quickly spirals insanely out of control.

 

Should we complicate it further?

 

How about a multitude of holy scriptures? The Holy Bible. The Book of Mormon. The Apocrypha. The Gnostic Gospels. The Dead Sea Scrolls. The Torah. The Qur’an. This is to say nothing of the hundreds of scripture that exist outside of the Christian / Jewish / Islamic faiths.

 

Layers upon layers and words upon words written by people in different cultures in different eras that were influenced by different elements and then translated to other languages.

 

In fact, scholars believe that the pronoun Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit in the original Aramaic was feminine. SHE. And then it was lost in the Latin translation.

 

The image that I have in my mind right now is the world’s largest ball of yarn that has been knotted up to such a degree that it can never be untangled.

 

And perhaps that is exactly what God is. Something that can never be neatly laid out in front of us, dissected and examined.

 

How do we reconcile ourselves to this and find the true meaning behind anything? If I don’t know what you mean or feel when you say wine glass, how am I to know what you mean and feel when you talk about God?

 

The words of the Bible, even if you believe that they were inspired by the perfect hand of God, are still limited based entirely off of our unique interpretation of them.

 

Let that thought linger for a moment.

 

Even if the Bible is without flaw, our own unique flaws create problems where none existed because each of us interpret the words differently.

 

BIBLICAL MIC DROP.

 

So how do we come to know The Truth of God? How do we get to the pure emotion at the center of the words? An emotion carries so much weight. Explain love or fear in simple words. Use those grunts that tumble stupidly from your mouth to tell me what love does to your soul.

 

Perhaps we start this process by removing our labels. When we call God HE, we are applying thought and feeling to God based on our understanding of the word HE. Do we really believe that God is a male? That He has a giant holy penis? I mean, I’m being serious. Let’s talk this out. When we use the word HE, we are talking about a he / she scenario and we’re not ONLY saying that God is a HE but we are ALSO saying that God is NOT a SHE.

 

We have now placed a box around God. We have created parameters for God to exist within. Rather than God being big enough to exist outside of human sexuality, we have placed Him in a box that is human sexuality and then put Him over on the baby blue half. If we call God HIM then HE cannot, by nature of sex, be HER. We have now limited God.

 

Holy sausage party, Batman.

 

By doing this, we limit God through our label. And labels form expectations. When we call God HE we expect a certain type of individual. If nothing else, we immediately picture God as more of a father figure than a mother figure. That alone sends us spiraling into, what may be, a completely inaccurate understanding of The Immortal.

 

Just by the word HE.

 

Just by two simple letters pressed against one another.

 

Now let’s apply that understanding to something slightly more complex. Let’s try to understand The Holy Trinity. This idea that God The Father (male), Jesus The Son (male) and The Holy Spirit (once female, now neutered) are all single but different units. All separate but all together.

 

If that is our understanding of God, what word do we apply to it in our language? How do we describe that idea of three-in-one? A word must be attributed to it.

 

Alright guys, we are monks and we need a word to describe our understanding of God. God is all knowing and all powerful. God is within everything, dipped in our very existence. God is inside you and me and the air and our food and our thoughts and God has seeped into every nuance of our existence. God is both mortal and divine. God is both physical and spiritual. God is above and beyond our comprehension. God is outside of time. God is beyond form. God does not exist in many forms. God is above and beyond form. What word do we use to convey this sophisticated understanding? How do we convey a being that is above our understanding of shape? We need a word that means both all form and no form simultaneously.”

 

Trinity.

 

You can see how that word sort of works to convey that complex thought. You can see that they were trying to boil this very deep and sophisticated understanding of God down into this simple label. And you can also see that it’s a very bland word used to describe a very impressive idea. You can also see that the word Trinity is never found in the Bible and the concept was not created until well after the death of Jesus.

 

Another idea that was pitched and followed by the Christian church for a while was something called Adoptionism. This was the idea that Jesus was born a man, just like you and me. Absolutely no different. This is the belief that he was NOT born as the Son of God and that he didn’t become “divine” until his baptism later in life. An actual promotion from regular human to a God-figure.

 

And right now all the Christians are gasping at the heresy of… the Christian church’s early belief in the interpretation of the bible. This is our heritage.

 

These are just a few of the real beliefs that real Christians really followed based upon their very real personal interpretation of words. My, oh my, how we can pull so many conclusions from simple letters that have been mashed together to form words that are trying to explain emotions.

 

Words.

 

And so we start labeling God.

 

Even the word God is somehow limiting as to what we actually feel GOD to be. We see time and again in the Bible where it is clear that the authors were trying their absolute best to explain how massive this idea of God is while their words fail them miserably.

 

God is the Alpha and the Omega. Beginning and End. This guy is trying to say that God exists beyond and outside of time. He’s saying that God is not bound by our watches and calendars. Time has no bearing on God and means nothing to God. Time is a unit of simple measurement that creatures of this dimension are bound to. The way we can hold a film strip at arms length and examine both beginning and end simultaneously, God is not bound by our moments.

 

Whoa.

 

When Moses asks God what his name is and God responds with “I AM,” the author is NOT saying that God’s actual name is I AM. He’s saying that God cannot be bound by a name. God cannot be limited by a label. He’s saying that God IS. God is not a singularity with a face. God IS the breath of existence. The fabric of reality.

 

And perhaps through this understanding we also realize that even words like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, etc, etc, are all just more labels that we use to further ourselves from The Truth that is The Truth. Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran. Just more splinter cells that are drifting further and further away as we carefully craft more and more labels to dissect God, placing him inside smaller and smaller boxes.

 

By our labeling of God, we are limiting our own understanding of God. We come to the wineglass and we apply ourselves to it. We decide whether it is good or bad based upon our personal experiences but not upon a truth.

 

We come to God and we limit the absolute magnitude that is The Eternal. And by doing so, we choose to live in a muted world where we intentionally sell ourselves short.

 

We must remove the labels and forget the simple grunting words. God is more a piece of art than a diagrammed sentence. Or, as Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet ponders, “Silence is the language of God. All else is poor translation.”

 

If we put God in a box, we are putting God in a coffin and eventually He will become so sterilized and clinical that we’ll kill Him, bury Him and then kneel at the graveside and continue to mumble our empty prayers which are just words without emotion.

 

It is our overly simplistic, two dimensional understanding of God that destroys Him.

 

But maybe our understanding of HIM should die. Perhaps that spineless understanding of The Ever Present Always should be both castrated and killed. It is not until we tear off the giant holy penis of God that we stop picturing The Nameless Infinite as He. Perhaps The Real Truth is waiting for us to turn away from this mannequin we’ve been worshipping and come to understand that we will never understand.

 

Accept that the search is the answer because The Timeless Conscious has no end. God is not a math equation meant to be solved or a ball of yarn that is meant to be unknotted. We are meant to expand ourselves and mature our existence by experiencing God in our very lives.

 

We find God in kindness and compassion. We find God in empathy and sympathy. We find God in friendship and giving. We find God in a phone call or a smile to a stranger. We find God in holding a door for someone. We find God in helping a charity or doing dishes at a friend’s house.

 

That tingly sensation under our skin when we help an individual? That sorrow we experience when we see someone hurting? A high-five. An orgasm. Laughter at a birthday party. Tears at a funeral. Holding a new baby. Hugging your child. Laying in grass. A day off from work. A day at a job you love. A job well done. The smell of coffee beans.

 

This is God.

 

God does not exist in a box.

 

God does not belong in a coffin.

 

God is not a word. God is a poem.

 

God is the very beating of our hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

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