Category Archives: religion

Debussy Reverie

Some Sunday thoughts require the right music.

Some Sunday thoughts actually are music.

rev·er·ie

/ˈrev(ə)rē/

noun

  • 1.a state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream:”a knock on the door broke her reverie

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I had originally thought to call this post “A Walk with God.” But that would probably offend my Christian friends and alienate my Jehovah’s Witness wife. It would bother my intellectual atheist friends too. Because they know I claim to be a Christian Existentialist, in other words, “an atheist who believes in God.” Agnostics are agnostics because they literally know they don’t know what is true and what is merely made up by men. And not knowing offends most people in the Western world.

But Debussy’s Reverie is a quiet walk in the sacred woods, the forest of as-yet-uncovered truths.

And that is what I need today. A quiet walk in the woods… when no literal woods are available.

I have apparently survived the Covid pandemic. But this pandemic has been hard on me. Having had the Omicron variant, I am left without the strength I once had even though I am fully vaccinated. I have lost the power to be a substitute teacher, a job I love. The loss of the ability to teach in any form still drives me to tears. I am a prisoner in my room at home most days. My soul is in darkness, knowing that the end could be right around the corner. There is so much left to do, to say, to write down for those who come after so they can fail to read any of it and reinforce the cruel irony that informs the universe. I have stories and lessons and morals and meanings to give the world still if only someone is willing to listen.

I am not afraid to die. I have no regrets. But I have been in a reverie about what has been in the past, what might have been, and what yet may be… if only I am granted the time.

And, as always, I feel like I have more writing yet to do. I am about to finish The Education of PoppenSparkle. And I have started He Rose on a Golden Wing, The Haunted Toystore, and AeroQuest 5. And I have stories beyond that to complete if I may.

But the most important thing right now is having time to think. Time for Reverie. And reflections upon the great symphony of life as it continues to play on… with or without me.

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The Sunday Sermon from an Idiot

I heard a bit of religious argument today delivered by Ben Shapiro. He argued that you can prove God exists by the design of the observable universe. Basically, the “Clocks don’t exist without a clockmaker” argument. But that wasn’t the real point he was making. He was trying to say that atheists are liberal intellectuals lying about why they don’t believe in God, so therefore they are evil and we should hate them. A complicated, judgemental, and hate-filled thing to argue, like most of the arguments I hear Ben Shapiro make. His particular digestive issues must be really painful if he’s always that angry.

But the idiot in the title is not Ben Shapiro. (I am also not saying that Ben is not an idiot. I am just saying I am not calling him that here.) The idiot of the title is Mickey. This is Mickey’s Sunday Sermon. Mickey should get all the blame for this.

Mickey is a Christian Existentialist. I think I have explained that before as a way of saying, “Mickey is an atheist who believes in God.” Really that means he is an agnostic, someone who is not able to prove that God is real, but wants to believe… if only that were logically possible.

You notice that I started this sermon with the Maxfield Parrish picture of a girl sitting on a flowerpot. And why is this picture the start of a sermon? Well, to the flowers in the flower bed, the girl with the watering can looks like God. She who makes it rain when the weather is too hot and dry. But notice too, there is no flower bed in the picture. Only a puddle behind the girl. Did God overwater the flowers? Or did the flowers decide as a matter of faith that they didn’t need water, and believed they were made of sugar crystals so hard that they actually became sugar and melted when they were watered? What a stupid thing for Mickey to think about, let alone say! That picture has nothing to do with religion!

So, why is religion important to someone like Mickey who claims to be an agnostic? Well, a very smart man told me there are three functions of religion in society. It is needed for the maintenance of behavior, belonging, and belief. Society looks to the various churches to set a standard for how you behave towards others. That’s the Shalt Nots that teach the congregation not to commit murder, theft, adultery, or swear, or do the many other things that seem bad to religious leaders and also the laws that govern the general public.

They also look to religion to provide places for people in society to gather together, to develop a sense of belonging, a community. In churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other sacred-type places people gather to share proper religious ideas, teach their children, listen to sermons, and gossip about their neighbors, especially neighbors who are not in the building. Shared values and working-community undertakings are fostered and nurtured in these groups.

And if not everyone sleeps through the sermons, these religious groups all share, encourage, and agree to alter their basic beliefs.

None of these functions are themselves a bad thing. One could argue they are essential to the life of a civilized nation. Religion is good for you in many ways, even if you are not a true believer. Studies have been done that show true believers have less stress and are healthier than non-church-going individuals.

So, here’s what the idiot actually thinks. Religion is good for you. It is important for society to function properly. However, religious extremism is pushing this very natural part of human life too far. It can result in the burning of old women as witches, the Westboro Baptist Church protesting military funerals, the burning of black churches in the Southern United States, and some of the very badness that the holy books generally forbid.

And, truthfully, you don’t have to believe to benefit from the existence of religions. You simply have to hope that believers don’t believe too hard and pass judgements they’re not entitled to prosecute.

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Irreverence

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It is a difficult thing to be an atheist who believes in God.  Sometimes it takes an oxymoron to find the Truth.  And you often have to go heavily on the “moron” portion of the word.

The thing I find most distressing about faith is the fact that those who have it are absolutely convinced that if you don’t agree with them and whatever book of fairy tales they believe in and interpret for you, then you are not a True Believer and you do not have real Faith.

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I remember being told by a Mormon girl in one of my classes that I was her all-time favorite teacher, but she was deeply distressed that, because of my religion (I professed to be a Jehovah’s Witness at the time) I was doomed to burn in Hell forever.

Hey, I was raised in Iowa.  I have experienced minus 100 degree Fahrenheit windchill.  I am among those who think a nice warm afterlife wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

But I am no longer actually a Jehovah’s Witness.  So I guess that helps with the whole Hell-burning thing.  The Witnesses are a religion that claims to understand the Bible is full of metaphorical truth, and yet insist that it is literally true.  They don’t believe in Hell, which, honestly, is not actually mentioned or explained in the Bible as we have it now.  But they do believe your prospects for eternal life on a paradise Earth are totally contingent on knocking on doors and telling other people that they must believe what you believe or experience eternal destruction.  I have stopped being an active Witness and knocking on doors because I got old and sick, and all the caring brothers and sisters in the congregation stopped coming around to visit because number one son joined the Marines, and the military is somehow evil hoodoo that cancels out any good you have done in the past.  Being a Jehovah’s Witness was really hard work with all the meetings (5 per week), Bible reading (I have read the entire Bible two and a half times), door-knocking, and praying, and you apparently can lose it all for saying, thinking, or doing one wrong thing.

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According to the Baptist preachers, Jehovah’s Witness elders, religious zealots, and other opinionated religious people I have known and dealt with in my life, if I do not believe what they believe and agree with them in every detail, then I do not know God and am therefore an atheist.  So, okay, I guess I am.   If I have to be an atheist to believe whole-heartedly that everyone is entitled to sincerely believe whatever the hell they want to believe, then I’ll wear that label.

On a personal note, my favorite verse of the Bible has always been 1 John 4:8,  “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.”  That is why I claim to be an atheist who believes in God.  I know love.  I love all men, women, children, animals, sunrises, artwork, paintings of angels by Bouguereau… everything that is.  And I even love you if you exercise your freedom to tell me, “Your ideas are totally wrong, and you are going to burn in Hell, Mickey, you bad guy, you!”  Mark Twain always said, “I would choose Heaven for climate, but I would prefer Hell for company.”  I am not going to worry about it.  I will be in good company.  Some things are just bigger than me.  And trying to control things like that is nonsense. Sorta like this post.

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Quackatoonity (Religion Where Ducks are Always Watching)

Yes, the universe was not formed in a big bang. It hatched from an egg. And God is the Ultimate Mallard.

Anatidaephobia (pronounced anna-tidy-phobia) is a pervasive and irrational fear that you are being watched by a duck. A person with this rare phobia fears that somehow, somewhere a duck is watching their every move.

This phobia about being watched by a duck may seem like a strange basis for forming a new religion. But I may have had an epiphany as a child when a goose at Deer Farm Zoo stuck his neck, head, and beak of retribution out through a hole in his chicken-wire cage and nearly nipped me in my five-year-old neck. That epiphany led to recurring nightmares about being chased by a duck with large white teeth that looked like he had bad human dentures in his bill.

This I tended to interpret as a sign that I was facing a big decision about what I would attempt to do with my young life, and would do it wrong.

Ducks in the farmyard, you see, are temperamental, often impulsive, and randomly violent. They will punish you for sins you did not know you were committing.

So, in this Quackatoon faith in judgmental ducks who are constantly watching our every move, thought, and deed, we should be taking Saint Donald Duck as our role-model and guide. When we see sin and wrongness in the world we are watching, we must dissolve in incoherent rage. Point your finger. Shout things that no one understands. Get the world’s attention. Confuse them completely. And get them to wonder what they did to make you so rage-filled and dangerously aggravated.

Then, hopefully, they will realize their sin and immediately mend their ways. Or at least, rearrange their feathers.

Or we can rely on the incompetent vengeful wrath of Saint Daffy Duck to see the unrighteousness in the rabbits of the world around us, posting Rabbit Season signs everywhere, and getting his duckbill blown off via the shotgun of a nearby Elmer who has been tricked into thinking ducks are rabbits.

Well, that might not be the most efficient prosecution of God’s will on Earth. But at least it will leave us laughing. And who can sin who is laughing that hard?

At this point in trying to establish this new religion, I should probably be talking about financial matters. Where you can send donations to the Church of Perpetual Quackers? Will there be t-shirts with religious slogans like, “You’re Driving Me Quackers!?” Do we still bring deviled eggs to church socials?

But I can’t talk about that right now… a duck is probably watching.

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More Simple Answers to Complicated Problems

Part A, Solving Racism

Minnie and my daughter.

I know… Saying I can solve racism simply marks me as something of an idiot. It is a complicated and deeply-embedded weakness of the human race. We are programmed with certain instincts that make us fearful of anyone or anything unknown to us, unfamiliar, or obviously different in some manner.

Consider allowing someone like Minnie Mouse to hug my young daughter. As people go, she is somewhat suspicious-looking. Notice the color of her skin on the neck, ankles, and arms. This is a black person apparently wearing white-face makeup. Is that not something suspicious? Something to be cautious about? In fact, look at the mouse ears and black, mouse nose. She’s not even human! She’s an anthropomorphic mouse-lady. Tucker Carlson would warn you against trusting her with the Princess. And if you point out how silly these arguments are about a Disneyland performer in a costume that represents Minnie Mouse, a character we all know and love, I would say, “YES! Exactly! An unknown person hiding her identity under a costume that will put adults and children at ease… and make them vulnerable to who-knows-what?” Maybe Florida Governor DeSaniflush was right to attack Disney by charging his Floridians more in taxes in the Disney name.

Yes, human beans are inherently suspicious, paranoid, and hateful when it comes to groups that are different than the one we identify with.

Of course, there is a simple answer if you are only willing to look at it that way. There should be no racism because we are not different. We are all one race, the human race.

That means, Mr. Toilet-Cleaning-Chemicals, that you and I are actually the same. You are not made, as I have believed incorrectly, of poop-dissolving chemicals as my demented and paranoid brain keeps thinking because of your DeSantis misnomer. You are not the saint you believe you are because of the meaning of your name in Spanish either. We are both human beans. The same race.

And you are the same race as the beautiful young ballerina I pictured before I added the photo of you thinking about eating too many baked beans, and then drinking Coca Cola while eating Mentos. You are not going to explode. Because even if you consume those ingredients you were thinking about, they can’t actually dissolve the poop you are filled with most of your time on Earth as a human bean.

As a teacher I learned the hard way that all kids are kids. They are all human beans. They all have blood and brains and wants and needs and loves and hates. No matter what color they are. No matter what culture they grew up in, or what religion their parents taught them, or failed to teach them. As a teacher, you have to be able to love all of them. Even the ugly ones. Even the ones whose names remind me of poop-dissolving chemicals and seem to be constantly full of fear and hatred and racism.

Here’s the skinny on those things racists need to hear;

The human beans you need to hate and fear and distrust, the truly evil people, come in every color, creed, culture, and calamitous character. Yes, rich white people, they even come in the color white. No matter what Tucker Carlson says… or thinks about a malevolent Minnie Mouse who may somehow be trying to “replace us.”

And the people you need to get more familiar with, whose culture you need to witness, whose stories you need to hear, and you desperately need to learn to love, come in every color too. Yes, rich white people, even in the color white. I am no more a reverse racist than I am a racist.

And there is a simple cure for racism.

Jesus taught it. So did Buddha, Mohammed, Zoaster, Walt Whitman, and Alan Watts. Jean Paul Sartre too, come to think of it.

The cure is to love everybody. Hate nobody. Suprisingly, if you do that simple thing, nobody will hate you in return. Racism is then cured. I know it is not feasible. Not everybody will even bother to listen to this advice. But the world won’t get any worse while you try to make it happen.

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My Brother’s Keeper

It is a Biblical question. After Cain killed Abel, God came asking for Abel’s whereabouts. And Cain stupidly answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Stupid Cain! Did he not know that God already knew the answer?

And stupid God. Why did he ask a question to which he already knew the answer? And why did he ask stupid Cain whom he must’ve already known was stupid?

But the answer to the question in this bit of Biblical moral mythology is supposed to be, “Yes, Cain. You are your brother’s keeper.”

So, why am I, a confirmed Christian Existentialist (an atheist who believes in God), trying to tell you something from a Biblical story?

Well, the matter is simple. As I will very likely die soon from Coronavirus (which I am not yet infected with, but, you know, the kindness of fate…), I am trying like heck to impart what little wisdom I have gathered in my life so that I may leave something behind me that has worth.

This current pandemic is itself a demonstration of the truth behind the claim that I am my brother’s keeper.

I wear a mask everywhere I go now because a mask protects not only me but it also protects others from me. After all, I have no access to testing. I may have the virus and just not know it. Then my exhalations would contain droplets of water that have viruses swimming in it. The mask, combined with six feet of distance, keeps my exhalations from reaching the lungs of uninfected others, and potentially slaying them as Cain did to Abel.

It is because of Texan prejudices against mask-wearing and social distancing that I know I will probably be infected before this pandemic is over. And my diabetes, blood pressure problems, and previous difficulty with bronchitis and COPD insure that I am not part of the 80 percent of people who will survive the virus. I will get pneumonia and die.

When I suggest, however, that we should each take on the responsibility for the safety and well-being of others, I do not mean that we should become a zoo-keeper, and keep them all safely in cages (the Senator Cruz method of keeping Mexican immigrants safe). You cannot presume to control the thoughts and behaviors of others. You must only adopt the way of love and brotherhood. You put the interests and needs of others before your own. You lead by example, not by decree.

Before you start complaining in the comments about how stupid I am in this essay because I blaspheme against God, and at the same time don’t see people for how they really are, remember that I used to be a school teacher. You don’t do that job because you want to be rich and powerful. You do that job for love of others… specifically, other people’s children. And it is true that everybody has their bad points. Everybody is thoughtless, or wicked, or deeply troubled at times. But everyone also has qualities about them that make them beautiful, or kind, or noble, or selfless, or… well, the list of good things I have seen and nurtured in other people’s children is far longer and more profound than the bad things. No matter who they are, no matter what color or culture or religion they are, my brothers and sisters and their children have worth.

So, here I am, declaring that I am, most definitely, my brother’s keeper. (And unlike Cain, I did not kill him. He and his wife live along the Texas coast, near Houston. And they are not in a cage.)

And here is the question most critical to my survival…

Are you your brother’s keeper too?

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Irreverence

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It is a difficult thing to be an atheist who believes in God.  Sometimes it takes an oxymoron to find the Truth.  And you often have to go heavily on the “moron” portion of the word.

The thing I find most distressing about faith is the fact that those who have it are absolutely convinced that if you don’t agree with them and whatever book of fairy tales they believe in and interpret for you, then you are not a True Believer and you do not have real Faith.

7109_o_william_adolphe_bouguereau

I remember being told by a Mormon girl in one of my classes that I was her all-time favorite teacher, but she was deeply distressed that, because of my religion (I professed to be a Jehovah’s Witness at the time) I was doomed to burn in Hell forever.

Hey, I was raised in Iowa.  I have experienced minus 100 degree Fahrenheit windchill.  I am among those who think a nice warm afterlife wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

But I am no longer actually a Jehovah’s Witness.  So I guess that helps with the whole Hell-burning thing.  The Witnesses are a religion that claims to understand the Bible is full of metaphorical truth, and yet insist that it is literally true.  They don’t believe in Hell, which, honestly, is not actually mentioned or explained in the Bible as we have it now.  But they do believe your prospects for eternal life on a paradise Earth are totally contingent on knocking on doors and telling other people that they must believe what you believe or experience eternal destruction.  I have stopped being an active Witness and knocking on doors because I got old and sick, and all the caring brothers and sisters in the congregation stopped coming around to visit because number one son joined the Marines, and the military is somehow evil hoodoo that cancels out any good you have done in the past.  Being a Jehovah’s Witness was really hard work with all the meetings (5 per week), Bible reading (I have read the entire Bible two and a half times), door-knocking, and praying, and you apparently can lose it all for saying, thinking, or doing one wrong thing.

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According to the Baptist preachers, Jehovah’s Witness elders, religious zealots, and other opinionated religious people I have known and dealt with in my life, if I do not believe what they believe and agree with them in every detail, then I do not know God and am therefore an atheist.  So, okay, I guess I am.   If I have to be an atheist to believe whole-heartedly that everyone is entitled to sincerely believe whatever the hell they want to believe, then I’ll wear that label.

On a personal note, my favorite verse of the Bible has always been 1 John 4:8,  “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.”  That is why I claim to be an atheist who believes in God.  I know love.  I love all men, women, children, animals, sunrises, artwork, paintings of angels by Bouguereau… everything that is.  And I even love you if you exercise your freedom to tell me, “Your ideas are totally wrong, and you are going to burn in Hell, Mickey, you bad guy, you!”  Mark Twain always said, “I would choose Heaven for climate, but I would prefer Hell for company.”  I am not going to worry about it.  I will be in good company.  Some things are just bigger than me.  And trying to control things like that is nonsense. Sorta like this post.

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Banned Breakfast-Table Talking

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At Mother’s breakfast table we were always encouraged to talk about stuff.  That was a given.  It was how families operated in the 60’s and 70’s.  Mom and Dad not only listened to the mindless drivel coming out of the childish mouths of me, my two sisters, and my stinky little brother, but they also tended to hold forth about things they wished to teach us. We learned Methodist-Church-flavored Christianity and Eisenhower-Republican values.  Ike had been president when I was born and got most of the credit for the post-war boom in the economy.  We were middle-class people with solid middle-class values.

And then I had the bad sense to grow up and start thinking for myself.  Nixon had let me down big-time when I was in high school.  I had defended him against my McGovern-leaning loony liberal friends.  My best friend was a preacher’s kid, a Methodist preacher’s kid.  His father actually believed in progressive nonsense about sex-education for children and helping to feed the poor.  And then Nixon turned out to be a liar, a coverer-upper, a cheat, and a bad-word-user.  I suspect, though my Dad never admitted it, that he may have voted for Carter over Ford.  It was my first time voting, and it actually felt good to use my vote to strike back at the party that betrayed my trust.

Religion, too.  In the late seventies a man named Carl Sagan put on a TV show called Cosmos.  The man bedazzled my father and I with Science.  He taught us that every molecule of us was composed of atoms that could only have been forged in the cosmic furnaces in the centers of stars.  He showed us how spectroscopy of the stars could show us what they were made of.  He showed us the meaning of Einstein’s special Theory of Relativity.  He pulled the universe together for us in a way that could not be undone.  And he did it without calling upon the name and blessings of God.  But he pointed out that we are connected to everything in the universe and everything is connected to us.  To me, that seemed to define God.  My religion was changing from Christianity to Saganism.  Of course, Mom heard that as “paganism”.  Breakfast table talking changed into early morning arguments.  We didn’t exactly throw chairs at each other, but some pretty heated and pretty large ideas went flying through the air.   Religion and politics became the banned topics at the breakfast table.

tedcruz  So that brings me to the Paffooney points for today.  This blog has turned into a place where a disobedient son, a horrible sort of “free-thinker” type of radical hippie pinko goofball, can talk about the loony-liberal progressive ideas that have taken over his good-little Eisenhower-Republican little-boy mind.    I spent the last post talking existentially about my religious beliefs.  My conservative, old-fashioned friends and family call me an atheist now, but I truly believe in God.  It’s just, I recognize the factors behind Christian myths.  I bow to the wisdom of Scientists like Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Stephen Hawking… as well as hippie psychologists like Alan Watts… and literary heroes like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S, Lewis.

Will_Rogers_1922I am proud to be an Iowegian (a Mickian word for being from Iowa), yet my birth-State produces gawd-awful Tea Party politicians like Steve King and Joni Ernst.  The stuff that comes out of their mouths doesn’t even make good fertilizer.  But they are comedy gold.  Will Rogers would have pointed out that the jokes will write themselves.  All the humorist would have to do is consult the front page of the newspaper.  I also live in Texas where the debate over secession from the United States still goes on with new Governor Greg Abbott, a man who is a Rick Perry clone, except that he hasn’t bothered to put on glasses as much to make him smarter.  And Texans are looking forward to the next Republican president in 2016.  Both Rick Perry and Ted Cruz are running.  That doubles Texas’ chances, right?  With Global Warming not being accepted as a real thing, the need for giving all our money to the Koch brothers and the Walton family being recognized by both parties in Congress, and looming war with foreign nations that have the bad sense to be “Muslim in nature”, the future looks kinda bleak.   But it is a great time to be a humorist, and I am guessing I won’t be doing very much talking at the breakfast table for a while.

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Good vs Evil, a Game We Must Play

Whether we find it palatable or not, there is good and there is evil in the world. It is as unavoidable as the fact that there is hot and cold in the world, darkness and light in the world, school teachers and unreachable idiots in the world… Of course, any good philosopher will define the terms being used (not to suggest I am actually a good philosopher… I’m clearly as horrible at philosophy as I am at writing poetry.) “Good” is here being used to mean all that is positive, effectively aiding in life, growth, good health, love, and community. “Evil” is the negative, all that taints, poisons, kills, spoils, and causes suffering..

And as I try to play the game to win for the side of “Good,” I am often accused of being a loony conspiracy theorist, the crazy uncle who is shushed and vilified any time he says words like “Republican,” “Greenhouse gasses,” “Koch Brothers,” “Inside Job.” “Betsy DeVos,” and numerous other words that light conversational infernos in either Texas or Iowa. And I, of course, feel wronged in that I don’t believe the crazies like Alex Jones. David Icke, or Tucker Carlson. I don’t believe the world is run by lizard-men in people skins, or that Democrats eat babies and worship Satan. And I don’t care that Elvis probably faked his death. But I do believe something is wrong and being covered up about the events of 9-11, and the government is covering up the truth about UFOs. I have researched both sides of each question and found many disturbing things have more and better evidence than the debunkers can provide in opposition. Some evils in our time are threatening to cause extinction of life on Earth. That includes man-made climate change, nuclear-weapons proliferation, Chinese economic aggression, and the acidification of the world’s oceans. Opposing these bad things is not a problem caused by me. I am not breaking the rules of the game.

One definite truth that I hope holds true on into the future as it has done in the past is that humankind is made up of numerous innovators and problem-solvers dedicated to helping us overcome the evils that some men do. Solutions to climate problems are out there and being worked on. Things like vertical forests and atmospheric scrubbers already exist, and more are even being built. Gigantic, mountain-installation solar batteries are being designed and built to provide for increasing clean-energy needs. The technology exists to desalinate ocean water and remove or neutralize naturally-formed acids. Hopefully a way will be invented to clean up all the excess plastic waste in the oceans too.

Of course, the hardest part of that game is getting corporations and the billionaires who empower them to pay the price for solving these problems. The profit motive is there to be had. But it is a long-term investment being proposed in a world of quick profits and short-term schemes that rich and heartless people are addicted to.

Of course, many find “Good” is served best through faith and devotion. That might seem a potential problem for an old atheist like me. But, I remind you, I am an atheist who believes in God. I know there is a spiritual dimension to human life, and nothing works well without that. That is why I am a Christian Existentialist. The basis of most religions is some sort of fairytale about faith in a higher power and a better ultimate outcome than merely death. And that would seem to be useless if it is provably false.

But that is one of the beauties of an existentialist philosophy. Since life does not come with meaning already installed in all the hardware, we have the privilege of creating or choosing the operating software for ourselves. Most traditional religions provide instructions on how to live the best life possible and to love one another. This more than merely outweighs the evil done in the name of religion. The heroes who stand against false and harmful beliefs are given their power by being true to the religion inculcated in them in their youth.

This is why it is so tragic when great philosophers like Nietzsche are misunderstood and misused by evil men like Hitler’s Nazi Party. Nietzsche did write about the “Ubermensch” or “Super-man.” But he would never have argued for a “Master Race” like the Nazis did. He was writing about how a man takes ownership over the writing of his own story. And the man (or woman, since he talked about men as if the word meant mankind) can make goodness out of even a life of suffering (just as Nietzsche with his mental illness in later life himself did.) Nietzsche was a philosopher who taught in his writings how people should love one another and should make their own meaning out whatever circumstance they found themselves living in.

It is to be hoped that whatever religious fairytale you adhere to, and however near we are to the actual end of the world, we will all continue to strive for the Good, the Light Side of the Force. It is the only hope we truly have to ultimately win the game..

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Thinking About Thinking About Christmas

Yeah, I know… The title seems like a typo. But this pointlessly obtuse Mickian essay is actually about metacognition of the concept of having the “Christmas spirit.” In other words, I am writing about and analyzing how I think about Christmas. A nerdy thing to do done by a nerd who wants you to think he is smarter than he really is.

The Reason for the Season

Yes, I live in Texas, so I am constantly seeing the “Reason for the Season” signs in every Southern Baptist churchyard. So, what do I think is the reason? Yeah, you probably don’t want to know. I was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for 20 years. Not that I believed in the evils of celebrating Christmas. I only stopped following Witness commands when they abandoned me in times of spiritual need, but I do retain the belief that if Jesus was a real human being, he was not born on December 25th. If the shepherds were watching their flocks by night, then the latest it could have been was in October. Shepherds don’t graze their flocks in winter. The celebration is what the Christian bigwigs decided they would use to co-opt the pagan Saturnalia. The date represents the rebirth of the Sun after the Winter Solstice on December 21st. The Sun, not the Son.

But unlike Jehovah’s Witnesses, I don’t see the Christmas holiday as a bad thing. People, Christian or not, are nicer to each other this time of year. They are much quicker to think of others and take pity on those who are suffering or are in serious need of help. And they think about giving gifts to others. particularly family. Growing up a Methodist Christian, I never noticed any parents at all giving their kids lumps of coal. Even the really bad kids got cool stuff as gifts from Mom and Dad, or Grandma or Grandpa, or whoever else was lucky enough to have to put up with them daily throughout the year.

People actually willingly spend time with their family this time of year. They hear the minister occasionally when he reads aloud the Bible verses about what Jesus commanded concerning widows and orphans, the homeless, and the poor. And Jesus never said that their reduced condition was their own fault for not working hard enough or not being a good-church-goer enough. And people who choose to reach out and spend time with each other during the season of good feelings generally find they actually like those fellow human beings they chose to spend some of their time with. All people are generally good when they are not being swayed by a way to make lots of money or enraged and vengeful for the real and imagined hurts that others have inflicted on them. I think it is absolutely vital that people have a celebration when they have survived another year of life in which not all of their family and friends are dead and they may even have a little money on hand to celebrate with. If Christmas didn’t already exist, we would desperately need to create something just like it.

Vincent Price’s Christmas Tree again

Vincent Price’s Christmas Tree Explained

The picture above, a surrealist picture-poem of how I feel about Christmas now that I am retired and no longer a Jehovah’s Witness, has never really been explained by me. Now that I am baring my soul as a Christian Existentialist Nudist Atheist who believes in God, I should elaborate on what it means.

The picture is named after the photo-shopped Christmas Tree in the back corner. I photo-shopped it from a photo of Vincent Price, the horror-movie actor, in a TV Christmas special in the 1960’s. I photo-shopped Vincent out of the picture, of course, just clipping and pasting the tree itself. I spent a good share of my youth, including all of my teen years, nursing a terrible secret. I was sexually assaulted at the age of ten. I believed I was a monster. But the Christmas I created the picture and photo-shopped Vincent out, I had successfully made peace with the monster in my past. My story is not a horror story. So, horror-movie-star Vincent had to leave this party.

And part of that is represented by the Cotulla Cowgirl basketball player. Vivi here represents all my 31 years as a public school teacher. By serving the children of South Texas, and later the ESL kids of North Texas, I managed to prove to myself that I was a good and worthy person. I know because of the many things they told me over the years, that my students would mostly agree with my self-assessment that I am not a bad man.

I put myself in the picture as a happy, confident nude boy. This is a thing that I wasn’t able to be after the age of ten. Doubt, fear, and depression clouded my world from 1966 to 1976. When I spent time trying to explain to the high school counselor what was wrong with me, he had to admit that he knew something was wrong, but he did not know what it was nor how to help. And I could not at that time admit what had happened, as I could not even allow myself to remember the actual trauma. So, becoming a nudist in 2017 and coming to terms with the scars and trauma, was a gift to myself. The mental chains are gone.

Anneliese, the gingerbread girl, represents my mental linking with the German-American world of Aunt Selma’s Christmas parties in the 1960’s. The gingerbread cookies, the candy, and the Christmas stories she told with a charming German accent led to the writing of my book Recipes for Gingerbread Children. Christmas is a day full of gingerbread men… and now, making gingerbread houses.

And Annette Funicello is in the picture because Christmas always used to have a Disney-movie, happy-endings sort of theme. I needed that happy ending to every year to keep me going. It was an emotionally essential thing I counted on every year to be able to face a brand new year.

I am an atheist. And an Existentialist. Oh, and a nudist. But I need Christmas. It matters to me. And I know I am not the only one.

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Filed under autobiography, family, forgiveness, gingerbread, humor, Paffooney, philosophy, religion