Friday, February 20

My Five Minutes of Fame

I was interviewed by local modia guy Rick Dancer for his show in conjunction with my Op-Ed piece that appeared in the Register Guard.

Sunday, February 1

The Face of God

In the Old World, there was a pantheon of Gods. They were capricious and prone to destruction if displeased. Divine figures worshipped  with human sacrifices in the hopes of saving us from chaos and help us make sense of the cruelties of life. The Middle World came when those Gods morphed into a paternal God as the fear of disaster abated and civilizations became organized. The New World arrived the Age of Enlightenment when Galileo looked at the sky through his telescope and his discoveries challenged the status quo. When Galileo was asked if he was challenging the bible he replied, no just man's interpretation of it. The battle was not whether he was right or wrong, it was over what we wanted to trust, faith or science.

Historically a new religion starts out as radical ideas viewed with suspicion and scorn by the dominant culture which tries to squash it. The cult grows in popularity as it appeals to a broader and usually oppressed segment of society at odds with the current ideology. Over time it becomes an established religion with its own rituals, hierarchy and code of laws. Eventually it gains in power to become as oppressive as the old order it replaced.

A religion demands allegiance to dogma and a strict code of obedience. It rejects the modern world in the belief that they don't need progress because "the word" is the truth and here is where it ends. Like Peter Pan they are arrested children who refuse to grow up. But change and adaption to it is enviable in order to survive. When a religion refuse to acknowledge this it creates schisms as fundamentalists  try to drag everyone back to the past. The current embrace of fanaticism is an attempt to stop the changing image of God at the point of a sword.

Like the Catholic Church threatening to excommunicate anyone who dared to look through Galileo's telescope, the self appointed guardians of righteousness label anyone looking through the metaphorical telescope as heretics for questioning their word. In reality many of these defenders of the faith could care less about the true message of their religion. What they really want is to exploit those who violently hate reality to gain temporal power.

Civilization has evolved and so has our relationship to God. We once depended on God to help us increase our crops, insure good hunting and ward off disaster.  Now we turn to the divine for answers to the meaning of our existence in a complex and subtle world. Answers the traditional religions are increasingly unable to give, which tells me we're on the verge of a new ideological shift.

Modern atheism, I believe, is not a rejection of God so much as a reaction to the failings of religion. However atheists are just as bad because --like their adversaries--they are stuck in the old metaphors. They are filled with disgust at the abysmal failure of religion to engage the modern world. But the disappointment is with humans, not God. The true humanist sees the divine sweetness and beauty of the natural world without the theological trappings. 

The "Laws of God" as the faithful stress, are not immutable. Eating pork or a cheeseburger is not a sin anymore with modern refrigeration. Walking around in modern comfortable clothes does not mean one is unfaithful. Holy scripture were meant as guidebooks to social ethics, not textbooks on fashion and nutrition. What matters more to the divine; how you say your prayers or how you live your life? We continue to confuse the divine with the spelling rather than the spirit of the word.

I once thought of my parents as all powerful, who would protect me and whose explanation of the world I accepted without question. At one point I dismissed their every utterance as nonsense. Now I look back and realize they did the best they could. We should do likewise with each other and tolerate the struggle each of us has to understand the nature of God.

Tuesday, January 20

Offense 101

 "Those who are easily shocked, should be shocked more often." Mae West

As a socially clumsy person with Asperger's, I have discovered there is no defense from thin skinned, politically correct, humorless Eugenians. I worked with a local theatre in one capacity or another for 15 years until recently, when, as volunteer usher a patron was offended by my innocent attempt at humor. No matter how hard I try to be courteous and polite, sometimes I say things that sound tactless without knowing it. Instead of gently addressing me to correct the problem, said person insisted someone else deal with their injured ego because doing so themselves would also make them uncomfortable. 
This turn of events got me thinking about a current, larger problem. We live in an era where people can not tell the difference between unintentional and deliberate offense. Any and every offense --real or imagined-- has the same unpardonable weight, where the offending person must be removed from their position or they must grovel and apologize immediately for hurting someone's feelings. The Korean airline executive who had a fit over the way her snack was served is a classic over reaction based on a sense of entitlement.

When someone hurls angry, abusive language meant to demean you, that's intentional. If you can't tell the difference than you need to grow up. 

Here's an idea, when encountering a slight, make the cosmic leap and assume it was unintentional and not a deliberate attack on your precious ego. No one is special and nobody cares if you are offended. No one cares if you think you can speak for others who may be offended too.This includes children. When someone offers an apology, accept it and move on.Just shake your head and assume they were tired, having a bad day or raised without manners. Whatever. 
I am offended every day when I read the newspaper, go to the library or shop at Bi-Mart for God sake, but I don't write vitriolic letters to the editor, or run to management and demand retribution because-gasp-my sensibilities were hurt. I wouldn't have time for anything else if I did. Life is too  precious to spend it being inconvenienced by imperfection.
I understand that some feel powerless before an overwhelming world and picking on small things is the only fight one has, but it is misdirected. Take all the petty slights you encounter and aim them at the ones doing real damage in our world. But demanding that every politician, celebrity and advertiser watch their every word or they are pounced on by those eager to be offended, doesn't help and only makes everyone small minded and meaner.
Meanwhile, I'm sick of walking through a mine field every time I interact with people for fear of upsetting someone even more insecure than me. I prefer to strive for kindness toward myself and others. " Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" and the world will be a nicer place.

Friday, December 26

Writing is Not for Sissies.

Writing is hard work. When you pick up a book or read an article you are seeing the finished product. Before it was printed, there was the shitty, messy first draft. Then the cutting and slashing of the re write. There was editing for grammer, puncutation, syntax. This must be done by someone else as proofing your own work is impossible. The word choices alone are agonzing. You must accept the changes and your shortcomings with the language.Writing is rewriting and-- this takes time. Some people think writing is a waste of time or a leisurely hobby. Oh yeah?  Here's a blank piece of paper and a pen, you create something beautiful and orginal and see how hard it is.

Tuesday, December 16

The Bizarre World of Gitmo.

When I read this article I thought it was from the satrical magazine The Onion but no, apprently it's um, for real-though I use the term loosely. Both sides in this surreal passion play are certifiable paranoid nut cases.

There has been much discussion since the Senate report on the CIA and their use of torture. There's been a lot of semantic dickering whether it's torture  or "enhanced interragationn techniques" but let's be honest-it's torture.

Interrgtion done correctly yields results, the experts know this. Under torture people will say anything, we all know this. But since this isn't about gaining intel why argue the point?
According to a recent poll Americans approve of it 2 to 1. Now let this sink in... a predominantly Christian Democrary approves of torturing people for what ever reasons, whether they are innocent or not. Why? Because those people killed some of our people so it's ok.We' re fucking furious and will make someone pay for it. Except that's exactly what those people think about us. Call it for what it is: revenge.

I'm going to go out on a moral limb here and suggest that torturing people for any reason is bad. I don't care how much you hate someone the karma on this one is major. In all the religious, philosophical and metaphysical writing I've read a cardinal rule shines through: Do unto others as you would have done to you. Coerceing your will on others is a big fat no-no. Humanity will never progress until we get this through our thick, fearful heads.

Don't give me that, "you're a softy on terrorism" bullshit. Retribution can come in many forms but this kind of sadistic evil yields nothing but more of it. If its ok for us to do it, why should it not be ok for them to do it? If it's depraved for the other guy to do it, why should we sink to their level? But remember what goes around comes around and we're next.