About doodahbuddha

Just a guy trying to make sense of it all.

On Banging Gongs & Basses

les claypool

So, I recently took up the bass guitar.  I quit Facebook so as to have more time with family and farm,which also freed up some time to pursue some creative aspirations.  Yeah, I was on Facebook way too much. Now,  I’ve always loved the bass, and I have some good friends who are bassists.  Even some that have managed to make both a name and a living at it.  And, of course, who *isn’t* a fan of God Himself, Les Claypool, shown above.  (If you don’t know who Mr. Claypool is, please stop reading this and go away.  We simply can’t be friends anymore.)

I originally thought I’d tackle the guitar first, then the bass.  Well, that was stupid.  I bought myself a really nice ESP guitar and tried to get busy, only to be thwarted every time I picked it up.  Those damn strings were just so thin and, well, stringy.  I was constantly in fear of slicing my precious little digits.   I needed something with some girth, some meat (alright, settle down over there in the gutter).  So, I picked up a wickedly wonderful Dean Edge 5 string.  Because, you know, I’d be a pro right after picking it up and would need a 5 string. Right?  Right.  

Anyway, I was so immediately happy with this new bass, that I was knocking out some tunes pretty quickly:  Every Breath You Take, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, and a couple of others. I had forgotten how much of a pleasure it is to play something. In school, I played the alto sax and every now and then I sit down to our piano.  Our 12 year old is far superior to me at that.  She’s got a real ear for the piano.  So, anyway,  to pick up this bass and start taking off right away has felt wonderful.  

I’ve been trying to practice at least an hour per day.  During that time, I’ve noticed something.  One is that the best sound out of those thick strings often comes from a softer, more delicate touch.  Trying to hammer out a note with force is often counter productive.  So it is in conversations, isn’t it?  I know that’s the case for me.  When I don’t feel heard or understood or respected, I’m far too quick to raise my voice.  To exert more force.  To become more stern and aggressive.  As if speaking in such ways would hammer out understanding and respect.  What is that saying about hammers?  When it’s all you carry, everything starts to look like a nail.  The opposite is really so much more successful:  A soft voice, a kind word, a peaceful countenance, is so much more likely to bring about mutually beneficial communication.  And it sounds so much better than banging gongs, dissonant notes, raised voices, and the like.

Of course, I’m a slow learner but I’m remembering this a bit more frequently these days.  About every time I hit a string too hard, but even more so, every time I hit it just right.

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What do we make of the Bible?

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As you can tell by the title of this post, the focus of this blog might be shifting a little, away from Buddhism directly and, consistent with the last post, more into a general searching.  Actually, as I mentioned in the last post, that is what led me to  Buddhism in the first place.  

So, onto what is on my mind… the veracity of the Bible.  The Catholic Church teaches that there are two senses in which the Bible must be read and interpreted:  Literal and spiritual.  The spiritual sense can be further broken down into three categories:  The allegorical, tropological and anagogical meanings.  The allegorical meaning is the prophetic meaning of a particular text, the tropological is the moral meaning and the anagogical is the meaning that points towards a heavenly glory.  However, what I am most concerned with here is the literal sense.  

Here is what Scott Hahn has to say about the literal sense of scripture: 

Because the Bible has both divine and human authors, we are required to master a different sort of reading than we are used to. First, we must read Scripture according to its literal sense, as we read any other human literature. At this initial stage, we strive to discover the meaning of the words and expressions used by the biblical writers as they were understood in their original setting and by their original recipients. This means, among other things, that we do not interpret everything we read “literalistically”, as though Scripture never speaks in a figurative symbolic way (it often does!). Rather, we read according to the rules that govern its different literary forms of writing, depending on whether we are reading a narrative, a poem, a letter, a parable, or an apocalyptic vision. The Church calls us to read the divine books in this way to ensure that we understand what the human authors were laboring to explain to God’s people.

 

Ok, so what I take from this is that one should take great care to understand the the style in which a particular book was written, the historical context in which the book was written, and so on.  However, from my understanding, the Catholic Church also teaches that there are certain factual things that existed, as pointed out in the texts.  For example, Catholics are to believe that there was literally a man named Adam.  But this is where it gets a bit confusing.  What facts are we to take as facts and what facts are we to take as non-facts?  Let’s take the story of Noah as an example.  In response to the question, “Do Catholics believe that Noah’s Ark is a factual event,”  Joe Paprocki responds, 

No doubt, the story of Noah is based on a factual event since archaeologists have found evidence of great floods that took place during biblical times. This does not mean, however that every detail of the story of Noah’s Ark is factual. We have no reason NOT to believe that a just man named Noah saved his family and many living creatures from a flood that devastated the known world at that time. However, it is hardly conceivable that a simple man like Noah could build an ark of such huge proportions and then gather two of every known living creature – one male and one female – and house them safely within it and feed them and dispose of their waste over a period of 40 days. That’s quite a zoological feet! The less-than-factual character of this story, however, in no way diminishes the truth and sacredness of its message. At times, biblical authors, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, used figurative language to communicate God’s truth. It is indeed possible for something to be truthful but not necessarily factual.

 

Whoa, not so fast there, Mr. Paprocki.  Actually, there isn’t any archeological evidence for a universal flood.  (I’ll address evidence for a regional flood a little later).  If there were geological evidence for a universal flood, geologists would have found the same sort of geological patterns all over the world:  First, from the fast-water stage of the flood, they would have found a coarse-grained, poorly sorted deposit of sand, gravel and boulders.  Then, when the flood would have receded, they would have found only one kind of deposit:  Mud.  Lots and lots of mud.  But instead, what geologists have found is enormous variety.  Everywhere.  All around the world, there are mostly sedimentary layers that were put down one upon the other over long periods of time. Also, there would be enormous damage to the global fossil record.  Fossil records would be all mixed up as the flood ravaged the earth.  But again, this is not what has been found. 

There are other problems too, but I will only touch on these briefly here:  

  • How did all of the animals gather from the corners of the globe?  How did koalas and pandas and penguins get there?  
  • How did Noah gather food that these picky animals eat, like eucalyptus leaves, bamboo and the like?  
  • Scripture is very specific that the ark landed on Mt. Ararat, yet the fossil record for the re-population of animals throughout the world does not stem from that location and branch outward. 
  • If there was a universal flood, there should have been an interruption of records of the flourishing civilizations throughout the world. However, there is an uninterrupted geological record of civilizations (such as those in China, Egypt, Mesopotamia) before, during and after the flood period (2000-2500 BC).  In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any interruption of records of any civilization at the time the flood should have transpired. 

There are many, many other “factual” problems with the flood narrative that could be listed here.  However the point is this:  What should we take as fact (e.g. Noah was a real man who really existed) and what should we take as fiction (e.g. there was an ark that held two of every single species of animal, including food and drinking water, at the time of the flood, except those that lived in the sea, and those that were fresh water creatures, because those would have died during a universal flood that mixed salt water with fresh water)?   

What some will say is that it is the Catholic Church’s prerogative to determine what should be interpreted correctly.  Also, what is correct is what the story “says” to the faithful about salvation history, God’s covenant with man, and all of that.  However, that presupposes something:  That one believe in the church and it’s authority.  From where I’m sitting, the story can easily be interpreted another way.  God saw that every single person on the face of the earth was wicked except a 600 year old man (really?  600 years old?), his wife, their three sons (who is singing that theme song now?) and the sons’ three wives.  OK, this story is straining the limits of credibility a little, don’t you think?  Who knows what the population of the world would have been during Noah’s day, but I’m guessing it was quite a lot.  Not one other non-evil person?  Children?  Toddlers? Infants?  Virgins?  Alright, alright, so let’s give God the benefit of the doubt on this one.  So, he wants to wipe the slate clean and start over.  And we should believe that it’s actually an act of mercy to do so.  But what happens soon after the The Holy Family disembarks?  They sin and fall into wickedness!  I don’t want to get into a debate about what Noah’s sin was, whether it was just drunkenness or whether incest befell the house of Noah, but it’s clear that they lost favor with the Big Guy.  So, just how effective was the flood, then?  And what does that say about God killing all of those people, and for what?  (And let’s not get into the rainbow… was it a new gift, meaning that God had to have been suspending the most basic laws of physics for millenia, or were rainbows already around and God just decided, “hey see that bow in the sky? Let’s call that a gift, a covenant.  I’m never gonna flood y’all again.”  I don’t know about you, but i’d be looking around thinking, “wow, that’s not much of a gift, man.  it’s been here forever.”  But I’ve been called ungrateful before.  

OK, so to recap:  What are readers of the Bible to take literally and what are they to take not-so-literally?  This, to me, is really important.  It throws all sorts of wrenches into the Judeo-Christian religion and ethic.  Does that mean that Jesus was really God, or was he just, you know, speaking figuratively?  Is the eucharist really his flesh and blood, or is it just, you know, tea and crumpets?  Did God really kill all those people in the Old Testament, or was he just being hyperbolic?  Did Jesus really raise from the dead or is that just a figure of speech?  I think you get the point.  

Now, onto the “local flood” theories.  As far as I’ve read, it’s a mixed bag of evidence.  However, one problem I have with the local flood theory is that God said he was never going to flood the earth and wipe it out again.  If he was referring to just the local vicinity in the middle east, well that’s just all well and dandy for him (and them), but there have certainly been great destruction and loss of life to many other areas of the world by flooding.  I guess if God only meant Noah’s neighborhood, he’s not technically a liar then, is he.  What about Genesis 7:19 that very specifically says “all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.”  That sounds pretty specific.  Could it be referring to just the local hood?  Doesn’t sound like it to me.  Mt. Everest is over 29,000 feet up.  And more specifically, the Bible says that the highest peak was covered by 15 cubits of water.  How could the author of the story have known that? That much water, to cover Mt. Everest by about 22 feet is a shit ton of water.  I have a hard time reconciling the incredible specificity of certain verses that point in one direction and biblical theories that seem to be designed to fit current scientific fact.    

The questions, concerns, and doubts that are raised in the Flood narrative can easily be added to just about any other Bible story.  It has me re-evaluating so many things.  It may make me sound like I’m really hostile to the God of the Bible, but if, after a lot of study and scrutiny, I’m forced to conclude that it’s a bunch of horse hockey, well, I have to be intellectually honest with myself.  That’s all I can do.  I don’t mean to be insensitive or rude.  I do however, communicate in style that is my own.  

Let me end with this.  If there is something i’ve missed or that i’m incorrect about, please, correct me.  Good night.  

A return from the blogging sabbatical

 

 

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I decided to take some time off from writing, although perhaps it wasn’t really a conscious decision. That’s pretty funny though, considering I had only just begun.  Instead, I have been continuing to wrestle various issues, mostly centered around my full-time struggle with religion, god, and the like.  I don’t remember what has been shared previously here, and I haven’t looked through previous blog posts in a while. The gist of my conundrum has been that I had left the Catholic Church some time ago and, ipso facto, any real, substantial belief in “god” has pretty much been jettisoned as well.  Instead, I have gravitated towards a more Buddhist spirituality due to a lack of “proof” of the former.  (This isn’t to say that I buy into the Buddhist belief of reincarnation and other shit like that.  I find such things as fanciful as other religious beliefs.)

What has been so attractive about Buddhism is what Siddhartha Gautama said (and I’m obviously paraphrasing here):  Don’t take anything I say just on faith alone.  Take what I say and test it.  If it fails you, abandon it.  If you find that it works, then use it.  There seems to be an “empirical-ness” built into the method of Buddhist practices.  I dig that.  Some have argued with me that the same sort of “cause and effect” relationship exists with prayer in Christianity.  I say, “nay nay.”  In Christianity, insofar as I understand it, one offers prayers to the deity and, as a result, grace, peace, joy and other gifts are metered out as that deity sees fit.  It was my experience that such gifts did not come.  Sorry, there was no Santa Claus.  However, with Buddhist meditation, with focusing on breathing, with actively performing things designed to quiet my mind, I absolutely did experience peace, a decrease in anger, and an increase in clarity in thinking.  I also noticed that my relationships with others improved.  I have been much more happy.

 In spite of the obvious benefits of Buddhist practice, I still find myself searching for answers to the “god” question. Some of the questions that  just vex me to no end are:

1.  If God exists, why does he (sic) make his presence so difficult to discern?  A related question is,

2.  If the Christian God is real, why must THE most important decision of a human being’s entire life be based on something that is so difficult to discern AND be made on pure faith?  Namely, we must believe and accept that Jesus is Lord in order to be saved.  Otherwise, guess what awaits us?  That to me is simply untenable.   We could go on for days and days about this point alone, but what if, through honest investigating and searching, I come to the rational belief that Jesus was not God, using all of the “gifts” of my intellect, will, senses, etc.?  Would I still be banished to hell for that decision?  What does that say about this all-merciful God?  “Sorry, Johnny. You work on the problem was sound, but you still got the answer wrong.  You still failed the test.  No partial credit.  Go to hell.”  “Sorry God, my name isn’t Johnny. YOU go to hell.”

3.  If the Christian God is real, how can he be both all merciful and all just?  How can opposite qualities, being possessed to infinite degrees, exist in a rational, intelligent being simultaneously?  That defies all logic.  “Sorry, it’s a mystery!”  Don’t give me that.  That’s a cop out for something you don’t understand.  And, I don’t mean to sound glib or disdainful.  I just can’t take such “god of the gap” answers and fallacious reasoning any longer.  Of course, if my reasoning has any problems in it, I’m completely open to it being pointed out.

4.  If the Christian God is real, how are the numerous scriptural contradictions and obvious fabrications explained?  (I do not care to list them here.  For a brief listing, see Dan Barker’s book, Godless, or just use Google or something.)

5.  If God exists and we have immortal souls, at what point in the evolutionary development of man did “souls” get infused into human beings?  There are all sorts of logical problems with this.  And, for the record, I do believe in evolution.  To deny the truth of evolution is to act as if one has had a transorbital lobotomy.  I will not go into the defending evolution here, but the evidence for the existence of evolution is so overwhelming, that one has to be practically decerebrate to deny it.  (And so, how could a specific man named Adam be made from the dirt?)

This list could go on ad infinitum (a little more latin as a shout out to my Catholic friends), but these are just some of the questions that still make me lose sleep.  I’m simply not satisfied with throwing up my hands and saying, “aw fuck it, I’ll never have answers to these questions.”  Neither am I satisfied with the cop out, “You just gotta have faith, Michael!”  (Please do not start singing George Michael.  Please.)  The reason I think this is a cop out is that, if God really made us, then he also made our intellects, our reasons, our senses.  It seems to me entirely ridiculous and cruel for a god to give us such capabilities and then to demand that they be purposely suspended.  “Sorry kids, I want you to just ‘believe! Use those tools for discovering that spoiled milk is yucky, but when it comes to proving that I exist, sorry, I’m not going to subject my superior nature to being discovered that way!”

One last thought before I wrap up.  This part of my life is extremely difficult, and I don’t share either it or that it is difficult lightly.  I do not desire condolences or sympathy.  However, I do wish to explain something.  When belief in a god, especially as defined by a religion that one loves, no longer seems tenable, it’s as if one’s world is turned upside down.  The warm rug that one used to curl up on and fall asleep on has been pulled out and tossed asunder.  There is not a small amount of fear, anxiety, depression, disorientation, loneliness, self-doubt, and anger.  I’m sure there are other emotions as well, but those are the ones closest to the surface right now.

These emotions may come out in communication with others, in Facebook posts, in overall demeanor, and the like.  To most people, that would seem perfectly natural.  To the most judicious and gracious of souls, I’ve been met with warm hugs, understanding nods, and accepting words.  To her great credit (and perhaps the greatest proof of a loving god so far), my loving wife has treated me in the most admirable of ways and she has my praise.  However, there are some who have reacted to me in various, negative ways.  I’ve been called an apostate.  I’ve had various personal faults of mine voiced publicly by friends who felt that I was acting disdainful towards their religion.  All this goes to show me that this topic hits so very close to home and I guess I can’t really blame others for reacting with such strong emotion when I, myself, am also experiencing similar strong emotions.  These issues touch the core of who we identify ourselves as being. I can tell you that I will try to treat everyone with respect.  I may not respect beliefs that I think are silly (if you think that you need to cut your testicles off, where fancy sneakers and kill yourself so that you will meet up with a spaceship, yeah, that’s pretty stupid in my opinion) but I will try to convey that, as a person, you are worthy of respect and love.  I hope that you all can do the same.

Thanks for reading.  More to come.  -michael

More thoughts on insignifance

wonder baby

My last post about insignificance, relating to our size compared to the rest of the universe, got me thinking about big numbers.  It also got me thinking about the dichotomy of how insignificant we are as individuals in the grand scheme of things on the one hand, yet how incredibly significant we can be depending on what we chose to do with our lives.  Actually, scratch that.  We are significant simply because we *are.*  And that is a very hard thing to grasp, considering the incredible vastness of what is “out there.”  It’s also very hard to grasp in the world in which we live *down here*, in a world that places such a strong emphasis on one’s value coming from “doing” and “having” as opposed to simply “being.” What’s one of the most frequent questions we’re asked by people we meet?  “What do you *do* for a living?”  Sure, it’s a conversation starter, but isn’t it awkward when the person responds, “I stay at home,” or, “I’m unemployed,” or even worse, “I’m a garbage man.”  And then, there are the incessant conversations and social posturings about possessions and status:  Where one lives, what sort of car one drives, where the kids go to school, and so on, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

In my day to day encounters, even though I am no longer a therapist, I still come across many, many people who have strong feelings of “insignificance.”  Feelings of profound depression that are often related to feeling like they do not matter.  That they are invisible. That they have nothing to offer the world around them.  What often comes comes with such feelings are thoughts of being unlovable, unworthy, and other symptoms of depression.  These are crucial, existential questions that need answers.  Unfortunately, too many do not try to answer them, instead seeking to just be numb or, to check out completely.  Sadly, I know far too many who did check out.  Sadly, I even tried to check out once.

What does any of this have to do with big numbers?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Let’s start with this, first.  I am not going to sit here and tell you that you were “created with a purpose,” or none of that pie-in-the-sky stuff.  Frankly, I’m not much into that stuff.  But what I *will* tell you is this:

The average male produces over 500 BILLION sperm cells in his lifetime.  (“Oh dear lord, he’s talking about sperm.” Yeah, sperm.  I bet you weren’t expecting THAT turn in the road, were ya.  Sorry folks, but bear with me.  I really am going somewhere with this.)  Every month, that average male sheds about one billion of those little dudes.  During sex, as few as 40 million or as many as 1.2 billion sperm cells can be released.  (“OMG I am starting to blush.”  Get over it, we’re not in church.)  Now, on the female side, she starts out with about 2 million egg follicles.  Only about 450 eggs will ever be released.  And you know what’s going to happen next (cue the Barry White)…

So… there was that ONE egg out of the 450 that yo’ momma released in her lifetime (1:450) and that ONE spermatozoa out of the astronomical amount (let’s say about 500 million, or 1:500,000,000) from yo’ daddy that were fired off during that ONE time they had the sex that resulted in you.  You.  YOU resulted from that.  Now I’m not talking about God or miracles or none of that shit.  But just think about these odds for a second.  It COULD have been another egg.  It COULD have been any other sperm cell.  It could have been any other night that your parents decided to stay up late, watching Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno or David Letterman (depending on the age of your parents) and get frisky.  It could have been a whole host of other variables that changed the equation and caused a different outcome.

But it wasn’t.  It happened the way it did.  And here you are.  🙂

I’d say that you are FAR from insignificant.  I’d say you’re pretty damn lucky.  Or blessed. Or whatever adjective you want to use.  Sure, it may be “just chance” that all of those variables coalesced the way they did so that “you” came into being.  So what.  Who cares. Doesn’t matter.  YOU are still HERE because of that “chance,” and you know what, I’m overjoyed about that.  You may have had to endure a good bit of suffering as a result of that “chance.”  I have too.  A lot.  But I bet you’ve had some happiness too.  And there’s more to be had too.  And I’m still glad you’re here.

You’re here.  And the world is a much better place because of it.  I hope you decide to stay a while.  ❤

Insignificance

 

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It’s been a while since I’ve written anything.  We’ve had a lot of snow and ice, the wife and kids left town for a trip to visit friends, and I have had to take care of the farm.  Then I fell ill with the flu.  I greatly dislike being alone when I’m sick.  It got me thinking about how alone we all are in this world. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a doom and gloom, depressing, woe is me sort of post.  But let’s face it.  At the end of the day, when we really face reality, we are not our spouses, we are not our children, we are not our friends.  We have to, at some point in our lives accept the fact that we are fundamentally alone.  And we should get comfortable with that.  It can be very daunting and scary, but it can also create peace.  Because accepting the truth brings peace.  

Then, at some point over the weekend, I saw this.  (Sorry, you may have to copy the link and paste it into your browser.  The free version of WordPress doesn’t seem to want me to use the fancy “link” option.)

http://themetapicture.com/proof-that-we-are-really-insignificant/

Hopefully, you’ve taken a look at that.  If not, it shows what the Hubble Deep Field camera saw in 2003 when it pointed it’s lens into a small, seemingly empty spot in space.  What it found, after four months of exposure, was utterly fascinating.  In that ONE little section of space (and believe me, it was a VERY minute section of the sky, roughly 1/10 the size of the moon) they were able to see over 10,000 galaxies.  That’s galaxies.  Not stars.  Galaxies.

Let’s just look at our own galaxy, the Milky Way. So, our sun is just ONE of anywhere from 100 to 400 MILLION stars in the Milky Way. Our sun has it’s fans, the planets, circling around it. It’s estimated that there maybe as many planets circling the stars in the milky way as there are stars. Possibly a lot more.  THAT is mind blowing in itself. So, here we are, one itty-bitty planet, the third from the sun, one of possibly hundreds of millions, if not billions.  

You know what just hit me, the odds of winning the Powerball are roughly 1 in 175 million. Kind of funny, isn’t it?  Do you think that those are the odds for having just one planet in our galaxy having life on it?  

Now, take that picture from Hubble.  That picture from that very small, dark section of space.  The section that revealed 10,000 galaxies.  The smallest galaxies, dwarf galaxies, can have several billion stars.  The largest “giant” galaxy can have hundreds of trillions.  So in that ONE little section of space, where there were 10,000 galaxies, we were seeing approximately 1e+16, or 1 times 10 to the 16th power of stars.  That is this many:  10,000,000,000,000,000.  I don’t even know the word for this.  Now, consider that some of the stars may have, in fact, probably have,  planets orbiting them, like our sun.  Whoa.  Mind blowing. 

Where am I going with all of this?  I’m really not sure.  Except that I am reminded of a conversation I was having with a friend who was embroiled in a nasty situation with other friends.  There was gossip, back-stabbing, lying, double-crosing, and treachery.  All from people who professed to be friends to each other.  When you stop and look at things from a larger perspective, does any of that shit matter?  Really?  What DOES matter?  

We are small and we have very little time here.  My maternal grandfather, a WWII veteran, and I went for a walk when I was young.  He was a quiet man.  He didn’t give me much advice, but on this walk, he did.  He only said this one thing, and it has stayed with me always:  “Michael,” he said, “Life is short.”   That’s all he said.  And on we went in silence.  I didn’t understand it then.  Later on, after his death, when I learned of the difficulties in his life, partly brought about by his own choices, I wondered if he was speaking about his own regret.  About things that maybe he wishes he should have done differently.  Whatever he meant, I know what it means for me: Life is too damn short to be wasted on insignificant bullshit.  

And as for our insignificant position in the universe, I think that is relative.  I may be insignificant relative to other stars and planets in the Milky Way or in relation to the vast universe, but I can be extremely significant in my little, infinitesimally small place that I currently occupy, if I choose to be. I can be an instrument for change, for peace, for spreading healing, especially when I have used a lot of my life thus far for spreading discord and hurt.  

Time is short.   

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” (or, the new scarlet letter)

ImageI went to college with someone who is now a rather famous priest in the Catholic Church, famous in the sense that he has popular books for sale in Barnes & Noble and in the sense that he is frequently on TV.  Today, on his official Facebook page, he posted this:

  • I was just asked how to minister to gays: Same as to straights: friendship, love, honesty. Yes, friendship, love, honesty.

A lot of responses to his post were predictable.  I lost count of those who said, “love the sinner, hate the sin.”  Eventually I couldn’t help but chime in and ask such people this: do they apply such a stark demarcation, such a stalwart principle to their own lives and to the lives of their non-gay, sinning friends?

Never have I seen this slogan used more than with regards to homosexuality. It’s as if any Christian HAS to qualify their love: “OK, I’ll love you, but let’s be CLEAR here. I’m only loving YOU, i’m NOT loving your SIN!” It’s as if homosexuality is the leprosy of the Christian/Catholic world.  When someone who uses this inane slogan embraces the alcoholic who has fallen, yet again, and needs support and encouragement to get up and try to get sober, do they say to him, “hey listen, I want to be honest here. I’m loving YOU, not your sin.” Do they insist on using this meaningless slogan to the pregnant teen, who is scared and alone and who is considering abortion? “Hey missy, just so there is NO misunderstanding, I’m only here to love YOU. I can’t be seen as accepting your sin AT ALL.”  If any Christian says these things, first of all, shame on them. Second, how effective do think that witness would be?

How about sins that are considered to be more damaging to the soul, sins like pride and spiritual sloth and judgement?  If a Christian sees one of their friends committing these sins, are they quick to say, “hey pal, whoa, I still love you, but man I hate your spiritual sloth.”  How ludicrous.

Yeah, somehow I doubt it. I could be wrong, but when I was Catholic, I didn’t see that happening. Ever.  Not once.  Now, I *DID* see good, honest people “calling each other on,”  which meant that if one Christian person thought another Christian person was doing something wrong, and they had a close relationship, the wrong doer would be admonished in a loving, kind way.  But how is this any different from any non-Christian friendship?  I would consider it very foreign, and indeed not a friendship at all, if I did something wrong and one of my friends did not say something to me about it.

Back to the topic at hand, homosexual “sin.” It’s as if these people somehow think that the stain of the homosexual’s sin is going to mark them, like a Scarlet H, and they’ll be judged by God and everyone else that they *gasp* accepted and *choke* loved a homosexual.  Do they think that the gay will rub off on them, for goodness sakes?  I really do not think that this is an exaggerated view.  I have heard so many Christians quote Leviticus, which calls a man lying with a man an abomination, when speaking about this issue, yet fail to mention the other abominations mentioned in Leviticus.  I have seen the disdain in the faces and have heard it in the voices of those who speak about “those who sin against nature.”  I know a mother and father personally, prominent Catholics, who have disowned their gay son because of his “choice of lifestyles.”

You know what’s interesting? I’ve learned more about love from some of my gay friends than from most Catholics I’ve known. And you know why that is? Because these people *know* what it means to suffer. To *really* suffer. If you can come through the sort of suffering that many of them have had to endure and STILL be a loving, compassionate soul, instead of one that hate’s the world and everything in it, that’s really something.

I love my gay brothers and sisters.  I want the world to know that.  They have taught me much about what it means to live.  And I stand with them.  Now and forever.

Addiction

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I don’t quite know why the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman has made me so sad. Maybe it’s because I really, really loved his work as an actor or maybe it’s because we were just about the same age. Maybe it’s because I am, like he was, an addict. Maybe it’s an amalgamation of those things and more. Whatever the reason, I’ve been sad since his death.

I didn’t know him, and for all I know the man could have been a complete jerk. But wow, could he act! He played some of my favorite characters. I wonder what it is, this connection between the highly creative and the addicted. We see it so often. Of course, they don’t always go together, but they happen often enough that surely there’s something there.

As for me, I’ve been lucky. My addiction to prescription pain medication was caught early on. It started early in my teen years, when I was first diagnosed with classic migraines. Back then, there weren’t a lot of preventative treatments, so the neurologists that diagnosed me just gave me a shitload of percocet. Not good for a young man who had a family history of drug and alcohol addiction a mile long. I’m very lucky to have had a mother who stepped in a few years later when things were getting really rough to help me get clean.

Here I am though, almost 44 years old, and the “rapacious creditor” of addiction still plagues me. I still have to be extremely careful with alcohol. It doesn’t take much at all for me to drink everything in site and black out. A couple of years ago, I developed pneumonia. The doctor prescribed a cough syrup with hydrocodone in it. I thought, yeah, i can take week’s worth of syrup as prescribed. It was gone in less than 48 hours. And god forbid I get a hold of an unlimited amount of money. I still struggle with smoking, having started that nasty habit at the age of twelve.  I could go on all night, listing the addictive behavior I’ve been enslaved by, but I’ll spare you the gory details.

What is it that causes this craziness? As a former therapist, I know the theories, yet I’m still perplexed by this problem which plagues so many people today. And I’m even more perplexed why some people are able to get free of these demons and some aren’t. I had heard in a few placed that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was clean for over 20 years before his most recent relapse.  For me, it’s been a cause of despair at times.  When will the maddening temptations end?  “Some say that the only way to be free of the desire is to give in,” we hear from some recovery literature.  Yet that same recovery literature promises that a higher power can and will deliver you if he/she/it is earnestly sought.

I never found that to be true.  God never showed up.  At least not in a discernible way, a way that he/she/it seemed to for so many others (at least, the way they claimed).  And that, in part, is why I don’t really believe anymore.  It may sound sad to some, but it’s my story.  To me, it’s not sad at all.  It was very liberating to shake the dust from those sandals, to finally speak those words that, for so long, I was afraid to say:  “I don’t believe in you.”  So I found something else.  Meditation does it for me now.  I don’t have to rely on the whims and fancy of someone or something “out there” to save me from myself.  In fact, I’m learning that I don’t even need to BE saved!  I have an innate goodness, built right into me.  I am a Buddha.  I am recovered.  Yet at the same time I am still wounded and broken.  I am both, and.  It’s when I sit, breathe, and I’m really connect that I am no longer plagued by the crazy compulsions anymore.  It’s then that I’m really at peace.

Buddhists believe in reincarnation.  I don’t know about that.  Christians believe in Heaven.  I still like that thought, to be honest, but I’m really not sure what happens after we die.  My hope for Phillip Seymour Hoffman is that he continues on, but without the suffering that he had here in this life.  The gifts he shared with us will certainly be missed.

I’m not sure any of this made sense, but if you stuck with it through the rambling, I thank you.