Month: April 2014

Day 44

Writer’s Note: This was recorded yesterday and is being transcribed today, obviously. I didn’t get much sleep last night either.

It’s been a really interesting, busy week. I did my reading yesterday and I transcribed the previous day’s writing, but I didn’t get to make my post. I didn’t do it. I’ve been so tired, so beat, and today is the day that I pick myself up and say today I will do better. Today I will reaffirm what I need to do. I will do better, so today I’m playing catch up with work, with my blog, I’m going to get some sleep… I’m playing catch up with my life.

Today I had an interesting conversation; I was talking to some of my coworkers about alcoholism and alcohol problems, especially in regards to Native Americans. Two of my coworkers are Navajo and they’ve seen a great deal of alcohol abuse and problems firsthand. One of my other coworkers who is white, she asked, “Isn’t it true that Native Americans don’t process alcohol the same way?” And I was confused and was about to say something, but I asked my coworkers if this was true. One of my Navajo coworkers said it was. I knew Asians had that issue, but I didn’t realize that it was a trait they had in common with Native Americans. Apparently it is.

This white girl starts talking about how she’s really “spiritual” and… she basically started talking about how spirituality leads your DNA to vibrate at higher frequencies and so your body rejects things like alcohol and drugs. I wasn’t even sure what to say to that at first. I don’t know, man. I’ve heard some pretty New-Agey stuff in my day, and I can’t imagine there’s any kind of scientific or rational backing for that. The idea of sympathetic vibrations of energy is a pretty metaphysical concept in and of itself, but to use it as a broad generalization for why Asians, who, to loosely quote her, are “a very spiritual people,” and Native Americans have a low tolerance for alcohol… like this is somehow carried down through the generations because of their intense spirituality… I don’t even know.

Every time I hear something like that, I think back to my little fictitious illustration/idea/thought experiment that is “The First Church of Five-Minutes-Ago,” and the idea that everything sprung up into existence, fully-formed, five minutes ago, and is designed on purpose to look as though it has existed for much longer than that. I was just thinking about unprovable things, and seriously how could you ever prove this idea of DNA that “vibrates” on higher spiritual frequencies? To say that all Asian culture and all Native culture is spiritual… and I get the idea, but this does not ring true to me. Honestly, it sounds ridiculous. Sympathetic vibrations make for great metaphors, but in my opinion they don’t make for good biology. It doesn’t make for good biological and sociological policy to just wave away this whole issue of alcohol intolerance as some kind of voodoo bullsh*t in your DNA.

keithdavid

You rang? ¹

I don’t really know what DNA has to do with it, anyway. Your liver processes alcohol. Higher states of being, I get that idea, at least the idea of “higher” levels of consciousness, but I don’t think we’re transcending our own physical form. I could see from a psychological standpoint, and this is what I said in response, is that the psychological benefits of having a healthy spirituality, can lead you away from seeking temporary pleasures in substances, from running away from your troubles and looking for escape in alcohol or drugs. A healthy sense of self and a sense of your place in the universe, those are things that when you don’t have them, you feel lost or lonely or empty, and you turn to something, be it drugs or alcohol, to numb it or escape it.

But I think that someone with a healthy sense of self can either avoid or control themselves around those substances. I don’t think it necessarily has to do with “elevated vibrations.” On one hand, this could be me getting defensive because I feel as though I’ve had some pretty enlightening experiences, and I’m doing my best to put what I’ve learned from these experiences into practice. I’m not going to use her word, “ascension,” but I do have a strong sense of my place in the world. I look around me even in this very moment and I revel in everything I see and smell and feel, and it’s great; I see God everywhere. It’s an amazing feeling, to feel God within myself. I do my best to remind myself that God is with all of us, and that there are so many different people, different vessels for this energy of consciousness that I call God, this vast Being that everybody is. It’s amazing, you know? I see that everywhere.

Maybe I’m getting defensive, because if what she says is true, then I shouldn’t be affected (or should be sickened, even) by alcohol or any drug-like substances. She says that when you’re enlightened, supposedly “toxins,” like alcohol, make you sick. So here’s my meta-reasoning, here:

  1. I consider myself to be living in at least a semi-enlightened state.
  2. Those who have “ascended” to higher “levels” cannot tolerate things like alcohol.
  3. I can tolerate alcohol, and it does not in reasonable quantities make me sick.
    1. If living in an enlightened state is Q, and being able to tolerate alcohol is P…
    2. My coworker’s assertion is that Q → ¬P. (If Q, then not P.)
    3. My case is P…
    4. ∴ ¬Q
  4. Therefore, I must not be as enlightened as I think I am. (Also I really wanted an excuse to use some logical notation.)

Maybe it’s just me being defensive, but I just don’t accept her statements. I see no proof, no evidence, no reason to believe all of that. The thing I like about “The First Church of Five-Minutes-Ago” is that it shows at once the limitations of science (because it can never be disproved) but it also shows the fallacy of accepting a lack of dis-confirmation as confirmation. Just because I can’t prove that the DNA of an enlightened person “vibrates” at some higher frequency doesn’t mean that it explains why Asians and American Indians don’t tolerate alcohol.

One of my Navajo coworkers is Christian, and she doesn’t want to take peyote because of the potential for abuse, or whatever the Christian deal is with avoiding drugs.² My partner has explained it to me, if I remember correctly, that people avoid them because of the behaviors that can result therefrom, or because when you lose control of your mind/body, then you open the door for “evil things” to come in, be that demonic forces or the devil’s influence or what have you. Admittedly, that’s kind of a scary thought…

Actually, as an aside, while I’m jumping from topic to topic, I mentioned to one of my clients (a ten-year-old boy) that I’m not scared of anybody. This one client, he’s really interesting. He’s said some weird, out-of-context religious stuff from time to time. He said something about being afraid of the devil. I said, “Why? Why should I be scared of the devil?” I trust God, why should I be afraid? I’ll see how I even feel about “The Devil” as a concept when I’m done with the Bible.

The idea of the devil as a mythological concept, that’s amazing. I love the whole conflict and the idea of a devil as far as a mythological opposition to the power of God. The idea of a devil as a strong metaphor, even, for all the ills of the world. I get that, that’s powerful.

But this kid tells me I should be afraid of the devil. But I’m not. Why would I be? I trust in God. I am strong in God, and I know I have nothing to fear. I feel like my “soul,” whatever you believe that to be, is protected. I feel like if you trust in God, you can realize this divine sort of energy within you and be protected. I understand that there is temptation in the world, and there are what I would consider “evil presences” or “dark presences.” I would use the term “dark presence” and say that there is such a thing, again based on my personal experience. I don’t know if that came from within my own mind or if it is some external supernatural evil, I can’t speak to the cause… Just like I told this woman at work, I can’t speak to the metaphysics of spirituality; I don’t f***in’ know.

I just think that my ultimate point here is that I am not afraid. There are times when this body, this vessel has fear, and that is understandable. There are moments of tension or anxiety, but overall in a big sense, I am not afraid. I have God on my side, and my spirituality is such that I see God all the time, and I feel the presence of God with me all the time. I’m not always paying attention, but every time I pause to look around, and see trees and other people, and the dirt of the ground, and grasses and bushes and I see all this color and this energy, and for me it all ties back to these things being different reflections of God.

I was talking to a very close friend of mine last night about spirituality and about my personal experiences that I’ve had… every single idea that is important to me about spirituality, about God, every single truth that I hold is based entirely on my own experience. I like that, and I don’t want to sound cocky or sound like I think I’m better than other people, but these ideas are all based on things I have felt or visions I have had or something I have read or experienced.³ To me, the details don’t really matter.

Obviously, yes, you should learn about things you can’t experience for yourself, but ultimately the whole “spiritual vibrations” thing, for example, seems like it doesn’t make sense. In this case, you can look at genetics and look at enzymes that deal with alcohol that are not present or as present in Asian or Native culture. You can look at the cause and see why this appears to be the case. I think coming up with some weird metaphysical reason… I understand that we often want to believe that there is more to this reality than we can see, and in my opinion there is, but that doesn’t mean, for example, that I think people should follow an arbitrary set of rules to get to some external Heaven.

Everything that I’m concerned about is practical, it is for here and it is for now. Everything I want to learn and teach is information that I think people can use to make their lives more enjoyable and more functional. It’s information that doesn’t have a downside, information that will lead to positive changes in your life, information that will lead you to acceptance, love, and respect. That’s the kind of thing I can promote because I can promote it with a good conscience. I know that the things I have to share with people will bring about good changes.

I have no reason to believe otherwise because I’ve seen it for myself and I’ve seen it in other people, and I’ve heard the message that rings true for me, repeated by wise, happy, healthy people. Part of why I’m reading the Bible is so I can understand it and accept it with no contradictions. I hope to spread all of what I learn, and I hope to serve other people so that they can find their own truths the way that I’ve found mine. It means a lot, and I will make it happen.


¹ The Thing, Directed by John Carpenter. 1982, Universal Pictures. Image accessed from http://www.zuguide.com/image/Keith-David-The-Thing.7.jpg

² Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” — Matthew 15:10-11, NIV

³ I do suppose, looking back, that most of what other people believe is what rings true for them. I just… I think some people stick with what they were told when they were young and refuse to learn or be open to the possibility of anything new. Hand-waving away any contrary evidence or criticism does not make one’s faith appear strong.
As has been said before, sometimes with pride/disrespect, “If your faith can move mountains, it should be able to withstand criticism.” Obviously some people don’t feel the need to rationally defend their faith, but for my faith to ring true, it had to be as rational as it is spiritual.

Advertisements

Day 43

THE END IS NIGH!

The end of Genesis, that is. Genesis only goes up to 50 or so chapters, so in a few days I’ll be knee-deep in Exodus. Looking forward to it.

Time to play catch up.


Genesis 42

Jacob knows that Egypt has plenty of grain, but it seems that given what his sons did to Joseph, they exchange a series of worried glances when Jacob mentions Egypt. Jacob/Israel sends his sons to buy grain. Long story short, Joseph recognizes his brothers but they do not recognize him. He accuses them of being spies and says that they must bring their youngest brother back with them, and that they must leave one of their number there. Benjamin, the youngest, was told to stay at home by Jacob, “Lest some calamity befall him” (Genesis 42:4).

After this demand, they realize that they are being punished, essentially, for what they did to Joseph in the past. It seems that their deeds have caught up to them. Reuben condemns them with several Biblically-worded I-told-you-so’s.

So Joseph holds Simeon there, he gives his brothers grain, and their money back, and the brothers go back and tell their father what happened. The brothers are worried that there is some kind of trick or trap awaiting them when they find all their money has been restored, and their father is afraid. Reuben promises that Benjamin and Simeon both will be safe.

Favorite Quote:

“Do this and live, for I fear God.”

— Joseph, Genesis 42:18

I spoke previously about the different meanings of the Hebrew word “yirah,” which is often translated as “fear.” Joseph’s point here seems to me to be that who shows respect and humility to God, and as such his word can be trusted.


Genesis 43

Israel is reluctant to send his youngest son with the boys, and so they refrain from returning to Egypt. Once all the grain is gone, they no longer have much choice. Israel gets upset at his children for having told Joseph that they had another brother, but it really wasn’t their fault. Judah finally convinces his father to send all of them, and Israel gives them gifts to bring to Joseph in hopes that he will be appeased.

Once they arrive in Egypt, Joseph has them taken into his house, and his brothers are afraid. They say in Genesis 43:18,

“It is because of the money, which was returned in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may make a case against us and seize us, to take us as slaves with our donkeys.”

They speak with Joseph’s steward and explain the situation and the misunderstanding, but he tells them there is no need to worry and returns Simeon to them before bringing them into the house. Joseph came out to meet them and spoke with them and then they sat to eat.

Joseph arranged them, “the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another” (Genesis 43:33). Joseph, knowing his brother’s ages, seats them accordingly. To them, this is shaping up to be some Twilight Zone business. Joseph serves Benjamin five times as much as anybody else, and they all eat and drink happily.

Favorite Quote:

“If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”

— Israel, Genesis 43:14

Here we see Israel the father finally stop denying what needs to be done and turning his circumstances over to the grace of God. You know, for a family that has had so much interaction with the Lord, they sure do have their struggles with faith.

Good day, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 42

Writer’s note: I recorded this verbally last night and am now transcribing it. It just feels better for me to explain this since I’m running behind.

Good God. Here I am at 3:16 in the morning, appropriately enough, thinking about what I’m going to write today. I mean, technically I’m writing yesterday’s post, but honestly, after the day I’ve had, too bad. It’ll go up hopefully before dawn, and that’s good enough for me. Tomorrow isn’t quite here yet, so whatever.

So I was thinking about Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams. The dreams that Pharaoh has, he sees seven healthy fat cows, and then seven, ugly, gaunt, skinny cows, and they eat the fat cows, and leave no trace of them. Same thing with stalks of wheat, he sees like seven stalks of wheat and then seven shriveled stalks, or whatever, and the seven shriveled stalks devour the seven full, healthy, stalks. Then his butler, or cupbearer, depending on your translation, remembers, “Oops, hey, Pharaoh, there was a guy in prison that I was totally supposed to tell you about who can interpret dreams.”

Pharaoh goes, “Okay, well, send for him.”

Joseph comes, and he interprets Pharaoh’s dreams. He says, you know, Pharaoh tells him the dreams, and Joseph tells him, “Look, you know, God showed you twice in your dream God showed you two times in your dream to make it real clear. Here’s what’s gonna go down: you’re going to have seven years of plenty, of riches, and you’re going to have seven years of famine. The seven years of famine are going to completely swallow up the seven years of riches and plenty so that not you nor anyone else will even be able to tell that there ever were seven years of plenty.”

So, Pharaoh realizes how wise this guy is, and he can tell that Joseph is a man of God and of great wisdom, and thus, power, and so Pharaoh basically makes him second only to Pharaoh over all of Egypt. He’s basically like, “You’re going to be my right hand man, you’re going to sit here… I need a guy like you to help me.”

Joseph makes sure that during the seven years of plenty, they store up until their stores are full to bursting. He says, “Alright, we’ve got all this stuff. We’re good to go.” When the seven years of famine come, he sells the grain and sells from the stores. People all over are suffering from this famine and Joseph sells from their stock, and despite the famine, they prosper.

So I was thinking about my own dreams, and such, and I thought it was really interesting, because it took me til today, when I was beaten down and exhausted from twelve hours of working and driving and herding children… and it wasn’t until this morning that I… Well, alright. I’ve had a similar thing happen in my dreams twice. Like the way the Pharaoh had seven rich and seven lean and so on, I had two separate dreams, months apart, where I strangled a man to death. My first thought after reading Genesis 41 was, “Am I going to strangle somebody to death? Am I going to get into a position where I have to kill a man with my bare hands?” But I realized in my dreams, the people that I strangled to death were “bad guys.”

The first one was an unidentified agent of a supernatural evil, like, there was a hint in my dream that he was actually a demonic figure. He looked like a man but he was either possessed by some evil force or he was some evil creature in disguise. The second one was a high-ranking Nazi officer, and yeah, I get it, in real life Nazis were human beings and so on, but in my dream, he was an evil man. So, I didn’t realize until just this morning that in both cases, I was snuffed out an evil life.

And see, in real life I’m sort of a pacifist. I don’t think really it’s right to take a human life. I don’t think that’s our call to make. It’s like every man, woman, and child is a world unto themselves, and each person represents something sacred and special. But anyway…

I don’t really think, unless it was an extreme case of self-defense, I don’t think I could bring myself to kill somebody, especially by like, choking them or strangling them with my bare hands.

handsomejack1

“No, no, Jimmy, choking is something you do when you eat too fast. What I’m doing is actually referred to as ‘strangling.'” ¹

The thing I realized this morning as I was leaving my house for work is that in these dreams, I am triumphing over evil. This is the dream that God is showing me, I feel. It just came to me in a moment of inspiration. It was just all of a sudden clear as day, and I went, “Oh, that’s what it means. Duh!” It’s triumphing over evil.

I thought about it for a minute and I was like, “Ooh! Do I conquer all the evils of the world?” and I realized that’s not really realistic, but what I feel that it means that I will conquer the evil within myself. And that’s a pretty satisfying answer; I’m pretty satisfied with that. I mean, I’d like to shoot for conquering more evil, you know, in the world. You know, some bigger evil, some grand-scale evil in the world, and really help eliminate some wickedness and suffering here or there, but conquering the evil within myself would be pretty great. That’s the dream that God has shown me, and I feel pretty good about that.

So if I ever have a dream where I strangle a guy to death, let’s hope he’s a bad guy, because seriously, I need some consistency here, God. But I think two times is all I needed, and of course the second time comes just a few days ago, right before I read Genesis 41, where Pharaoh has two dreams with a parallel meaning, and it’s just interesting, it’s so funny how these things work themselves out.

This is, like, my life: funny not-coincidences. But for as weird as it is and how little I understand it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


¹ Borderlands 2, Gearbox Software and 2K games. Image accessed from http://leviathyn.com/opinion/2012/12/21/why-handsome-jack-is-my-antagonist-of-the-year/

Day 41

I read me some Genesis 41 today, and we’re dealing with Joseph as the interpreter of dreams as instructed or inspired by God. But I want to talk about something else today, and only briefly.

This song is another one of those that you’re probably sick of if you listen to the radio often. I do not, and I love it. It’s just so catchy! I had déjà vu when I heard it because I swear I’d heard it before.

If I had to guess, I’d say the song had to do with the ups and downs and struggles of love and relationships. But I really like the first thing she says:

“All the broken hearts in the world still beat.”

— Ingrid Michaelson, Girls Chase Boys

This is a beautiful truth and it speaks to me in many ways. The thing that comes to mind most readily relates to a conversation that I had with a coworker at a restaurant. We were both servers, and most of the people there were miserable. It was hard to see so many people just bitter and hurting with nowhere to go.

We were talking one day, this woman and I, and something came up about denial. I said something about how I didn’t think it was a very good strategy. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me.

“When I work all day at this job and go home exhausted to my little daughter and I have to put a smile on my face even though I want to kill myself, denial is the only thing I have to get through it.”

I shut up pretty fast. But if I could go back to that conversation, I would say that I don’t consider denial to be a healthy long-term strategy. In the short term, we all have to bite the bullet sometimes and get by. But I can’t imagine doing it for years and years of misery with no progress toward anything. How? How does anyone live that way?

I understand time’s habit of getting away from us; I really do. I just officiated a wedding for someone I knew when I was like, five years old. Now we’re older, she’s getting married, and I still have memories from back then in my head. It’s so weird to think of all the things that have changed (at least so it seems, from my human perspective).

But this song… so many people in this world that are just crushed or beaten down or heartbroken… and yet like my coworker, they press on. They push through each and every day because they feel they have to. I am reminded here of Mother Teresa, who just straight-up lost her faith and felt abandoned by God, but still stuck to her mission and helped so many people and did so much good. Is it possible that denial got her through?

To me, functional denial is like functional alcoholism: even if you’re getting by, you still have a problem. Active denial is the worst kind of lie: a lie to oneself, an abandonment or rejection of the pure unadulterated Truth of life. It is avoidance of reality and of one’s own feelings. But I understand it.

Don Miguel Ruiz wrote that the “denial system” is important because it allows us to function even if we are hurt. But a healthy mind has neither need nor room for denial. A healthy mind is filled with acceptance of what Is and rolls with the punches. A healthy mind formulates a plan or does something to get out of a bad situation, or deals with that situation with serenity and grace.

So, to quote Ingrid Michaelson again, “Let’s not make it harder than it has to be.” Let’s search within ourselves, let’s forgive ourselves and others, let’s accept today for what it is, and let’s do our best, knowing that our best will get better.

Let’s mend these broken hearts of ours as best we can, and let the wholeness and completeness within make our hearts beat even louder and stronger. Let’s allow our strong hearts to speak for themselves by demonstrating a life of compassion, expression of ourselves, love, respect, and generosity. Let’s show all of these things, so that the broken hearts will see that is is possible to be healed. Let’s extend our healing hearts to others, let’s show them a beautiful world, let’s show them the grace, unity, and power that comes at once from Above and from Within.

Go out, and spread the Word.

Peace be upon you.

Day 40

Man! 40 days. If I had started this a week or so earlier I would have been spot on for Lent. How appropriate would that have been?


Genesis 38

So, real quick, we have a brief interlude in Genesis 38 wherein we follow Judah son of Israel and he has a few kids and Er, his son, is wicked and dies and Onan is supposed to “go into” his dead brother’s wife to give his dead brother an heir but he signifies his refusal with a little coitus interruptus and emits on the ground and so God kills him for not impregnating his sister-in-law. So the story goes.

This whole “spilling seed ” business has been used to condemn masturbation, coitus interruptus, and contraception, the first two even being referred to as “onanism.” I think it’s more like, he disobeyed his father and disobeyed God and SMITE you’re dead. I really don’t think the sex thing in and of itself is that big of a deal. But that’s just me.

Some stuff happens, Judah accidentally has sex with her, thinking she is a harlot, and and oops she gets pregnant and has twins. She has proof that it was him, and so he owns up to being the father.


Genesis 39-40

Back to Joseph! He gets taken down to Egypt and becomes a pretty successful slave, as slaves go, and his master’s house was blessed for his sake (Genesis 39:5). Like any good servant/pool boy, he attracts the attention of his master’s wife. She wants him, but he turns her down. This happens over and over, until one day she grabs his clothes and they literally come away when he runs from her.

tearawaypants

Joseph and the Amazing Tear-Away Dreamcoat. ¹

She uses his clothes as “proof” of his advances, and Joseph gets thrown in jail. But God makes it easier on him and makes it so the keeper of the prison trusts him and likes him. End Genesis 39.

In Genesis 40, Joseph is depicted as a wise man (I suppose) because he is godly enough to interpret dreams. The Pharaoh’s baker and butler end up in the prison, and they have strange dreams which Joseph interprets for them. One of them is to be saved in three days and the other to be killed in three days. The butler, who is saved, had been told by Joseph to remember him and to help him get out of the prison. Yet, after being freed,

“the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”

— Genesis 40:23

Sad day! So Joseph is stuck in the prison. Tune in tomorrow, dear readers, for another amazing installment of In Excelsis Deo!

Actually, as much as I want to go to bed, I think it’s funny because I’ve had some strange dreams lately which my (devout Christian) partner was able to interpret for me. Funny how that works. To me it just seemed like my brain finally had some time to collect and sort through all the stuff I’ve been up to, but she did give me some good insight.

For those interested, my dream involved strangling a Nazi officer to death, working with Walter White of Breaking Bad, being threatened by Amazon-style warrior women, and being watched by a teleporting lizard-man with a magic eyeball. No drugs were involved, I promise you.

Goodnight everyone. Peace be upon you!


¹ http://www.ebay.com/itm/Adult-Tear-Away-Pants-Halloween-Holiday-Costume-Stripper-Party-Size-X-Large-44-/360744741407

Day 39

Checked some of my blog stats today. Big surprise, “Jesus Christ” and “God” are the ones that get the most attention.

It would be easy to be cynical about this but I see it as a good sign. I think it’s important that people want to know things, that people are interested in spirituality.

One of my clients is a particularly troublesome child who acts out in various ways. I can’t figure out if he’s manipulative or not, but he’s a real character regardless. We met for the first time the other day and at one point he asked if I had been baptized. I said that I had not, and he asked why not. I wasn’t really sure how to answer that question to a ten-year-old. The answer to an adult or to a friend would be that I already feel “born again” and I don’t need someone else’s ritual to give me peace with God.

Truth be told, I like the idea of baptism, but if I ever get baptized, I want to do it old school, in a lake or river. I should remember that next time I jump into a lake or something. Nothing like that sudden shock of diving into cold water to make you feel alive and present.

I told this kid that I hadn’t really thought about it, and I asked him why he wanted to do it. He said he wanted to be able to go to God, or some such thing. I think the implication was that this was so that he could go to heaven. I wonder if a lot of people feel this way, that as long as they were baptized that they will go to heaven. It would certainly explain a lot.

I told my client that I think it is more important to live harmoniously with God and one’s fellow man, to not steal, cheat, harm, or gossip. To not just avoid evil but to actively promote good. I’m not sure he knew what to make of this, given that he lies and steals and harms. Perhaps this will be good motivation for him to work on his behavior. Perhaps his family can find more meaning in their life through a unified vision and understanding of God. Perhaps everyone can. It’s certainly a nice dream.

As I’m sitting here writing this, I spotted an old fortune cookie fortune on the floor. (My house is quite the mess.) I picked it up to take a look, and the quote written thereupon reads:

“Man’s mind is not a container to be filled but a fire to be kindled.”

I figured this had to have come from somewhere and so I looked it up. Most sites attribute it to a writer named Dorothea Brande. I decided to look her up on Wikipedia, and I found this:

“Her book Becoming a Writer, published in 1934, is still in print and offers advice for beginning and sustaining any writing enterprise.”

Beginning and sustaining any writing enterprise. I learned something new today, and now I might have to buy this book. Who has two thumbs and is beginning and sustaining a writing enterprise? (Hint: it’s this guy.) So someone went to a Chinese restaurant and got a fortune cookie which held this fortune inside it which got discarded onto this floor and hasn’t been cleaned because I’m lazy and messy because my parents were lazy and messy and it’s been sitting there for God-knows-how-long and today I get the itch to pick it up and it has a quote written on it that as a result of my natural curiosity leads me to a woman who wrote a book about writing which is the exact thing I’m struggling with the most.

You see what I mean about miracles?

Day 38

sunsetclouds

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. “

— Norman Cousins, journalist, author, professor, and advocate for world peace.

I read about all the wonderful soap opera shenanigans that comprise Genesis 38, but it is so very late. I’m behind on everything again and I’m not sure what needs to change. But I thought tonight I would share with you this quote. I forget which audiobook I was listening to when I heard it, but it struck me in a profound way.

The version I heard used the word “tragedy,” instead of loss, but the point is the same. I was just watching part of an Ellen Degeneres stand-up show and there was a part where she talked about children and playing and how we should just run up to strangers on the street, hit them, and shout, “You’re it!” and then run away.

My current audiobook is about childhood anxiety, and even though childhood can be such a difficult and confusing time, children still possess such joy and such innocence. We get older and we become bitter or jaded or cynical, and it’s such a damn shame.

Don Miguel Ruiz, in The Four Agreements, wrote that we have the opportunity to become child-like again, but with the benefit of the wisdom of age. As a child we cannot always make sense of the things we feel or the things that happen around us. A saying of mine is, “No one makes it through childhood in one piece.” Our parents cannot be perfect, and we cannot be perfect either. Not in a never-ever-hurting-other-people-even-by-accident way, anyway.

I think that we should do the best we can with children. I work with children and I do care about my clients and I want them to grow up and be happy and healthy, to live healthy lives with functional attachment to others and positive self-image, to live with a desire for adventure and an ability to accept change. I work with these children but when I’m done they go back home, often to whatever environment contributed to their behavior or “problems” in the first place. We can only do so much.

But adults have freedom to make all kinds of choices, adults can take matters into their own hands and (for the most part), no one else is legally or ethically responsible for their well-being. They bear all the risk, but they get to reap all the reward. It’s just a matter of wanting to change, of looking deep within oneself and realizing and accepting that we are perfect and not perfect, that we are messed up, twisted, and confused, but at the same time, who else could we be based on the experiences of the past? Based on everything we’ve learned and everything we were taught?

But the time has come to seek out new learning, to make our own decisions, to not let our minds drift unconsciously from one day to the next. Answer the call, and rise to the occasion. No more dreaming without awareness.

I’m very passionate about this sort of thing. One of these days, my definite chief aim will be a reality. At the moment, however, it is time for bed.

Good night, all. I love you, wherever you are, so show yourself a little love back!

Peace be upon you.

Day 37

*deep inhale*

So alright everybody we’re gonna get this Bible business back on track so here goes!

Jacob wrestled with God and won and it was like a metaphor for prayer I guess and then he goes and makes amends with his brother Esau who he thought still hated him but Esau was just happy to see him after twenty years and Jacob is such a nice and rich guy that he gives Esau a massive tribute to show that there are no hard feelings.

Then one of Jacob’s daughters goes out to make some lady friends in this new territory and she gets sexually assaulted by some prince dude named Shechem who is a prince and then his father Hamor says that Shechem wants to marry Jacob’s daughter Dinah and then Jacob’s sons tell Hamor that all the men living there have to be circumcised and then long story short Simeon and Levi who are two of Jacob’s sons just go right ahead and slay all the men in the city and Jacob berates them for making enemies and they’re all like “What were we supposed to do just let them treat our sister like a prostitute?”

Then God makes a bunch of promises and reiterates stuff that He said to Abraham to Jacob who is now called Israel which apparently means “prince of God” or some such thing with the “El” part meaning “God” and some stuff happens and Jacob casts out all the old idols and such and Deborah dies and then Rachel has another baby and she dies in childbirth and Israel buries her and then one of his sons Reuben sleeps with his father’s concubine and they list off Jacob/Israel’s twelve sons and then also Isaac lives to 180 years old and DIES.

Then we get this whole big chapter about Esau’s genealogy and I don’t really care to list them all off because anyone who really wants to read all that can just go check out Genesis 36 or maybe a genealogy chart of the Old Testament figures but the gist of it is that he dips out of town because it ain’t big enough for the two of them with the two of them being him and his brother and all their stuff and livestock and such.

THEN we get Genesis 37 which features Joseph son of Rachel wife of Jacob who is totally his father’s favorite and has a fancy tunic or coat of many colors and all his brothers hate him because he has all these dreams that they will be bowing down to him and that his father and mother even will bow down to him apparently because he dreams about the sun and moon and eleven stars bowing down to him and so his brothers plot to kill him by trapping him in a pit but one brother Reuben wants to save him later without them knowing but after doing the pit thing one of them Judah suggests that they just sell him so at least they can make a profit from the whole deal and so they sell him to some Midianite traders and sell him and he gets carted off as a slave to Egypt and they take his fancy clothes and cover them in goat blood and show their father and he mourns because he believes that Joseph is DEAD.

That’s it! We’re up to date. Genesis 33-37 in a nutshell.

Goodnight, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 36

I’m so far behind with things that it’s beginning to stress me out. I’m behind with this, I’m behind with sleep, I’m behind with work.

As much as I want to write, and I know I need to, I took one look at Genesis 36 which is just a massive, several-generations-long genealogy of Esau, brother of Jacob. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

My Medicine Card that I just drew is Contrary Hummingbird. Everything’s coming up contrary, lately. Contrary Hummingbird says that my sorrow is but another reflection of my joy. This is sort of appropriate, just because right now I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed, but I know in the end all will be well, and I will be better for it. For now, I need to rest.

Thank you all for tagging along on my journey. I bid you adieu.

Peace be upon you.

Day 35

Happy Easter, everybody. Even if my well-wishing is a little belated…

I got invited by my partner to go to church today. This is the first time in over ten years that I’ve been to a “regular” Protestant service. I say “regular” because I got invited to attend an LDS service sometime within the past two years.

It was not exactly what I was expecting, and yet, it was everything I needed. The church itself was a large complex of buildings, complete with a cafe. I was so lost; I’m used to churches being big, one-room, rustic-looking buildings. This was an ultra-modern campus that looked more like a small university than a church.

When we were ushered inside to the actual worship and service it was like going into a rock concert. The room was dark, everyone was standing, they had a whole bank of colored spotlights and a projector facing each of the four walls. There was a freakin’ fog machine, for heaven’s sake! Again, I’m used to solemn and dramatic hymns sung slowly in a well-lit room, so this just blew my mind. I guess I’m out of the loop.

I wish I could remember the entirety of the brief service. Of course, what with it being Easter, they talked about the resurrection. The pastor also spent a great deal of time talking to people about the veracity of the scriptures and especially the story of Jesus rising from the dead. He made the point that even if medical knowledge at the time was not as good as ours (when it came to declaring people dead), he said that the Romans were exceptionally good at killing people, and they would have made darn sure that Jesus was dead before burying him.

He also said that the “rising from the grave” part is the most important part of this whole story, as it becomes sort of the “stamp of approval” that tops off the act of dying for everyone’s sins. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Easter; based on their readings of the Bible, they commemorate the day that Jesus died. This is based, presumably, on the fact that this is the date that matters because it is the date following which everyone in the world could be saved and be free from death. The so-called “curse” of Adam and Eve was broken.

But hell, anyone can read the Bible and figure this out. I’ll be discussing it at some point in the next, oh, two-and-a-half years or so, once I get that far into the New Testament.

What really interested me was the feelings within me during the service and the conversation I had with God. I learned and remembered a lot about why people go to church, and about how the energy and the music and all those other people really wrap you up into a state of religious ecstasy. Even though I know the psychological principles behind it all, I couldn’t escape it this time around. By the time the band started playing the second time, I was really just standing there, weeping silently.


I have… a relationship with God that is both simple and remarkably complex. I realize I’m blowing my own horn here, but it has been a long and rocky road. I was never raised in the church or with any particular idea of God, but it was not infrequently that I went to church with my aunt. Any time I stayed at her house for a weekend I went with her on Sunday. I don’t remember much except old people in old fancy clothes and little youth activity workbooks. And maybe getting animal crackers at Sunday school.

I avoided my aunt as much as possible as I got older. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t enjoy church as I didn’t enjoy her attitude or behavior toward me and later toward my brother. We just didn’t get along.

Later in life, my teenage years, I would become a dedicated atheist. I was very against Christianity and I thought their whole conception of God was ridiculous and childish. I thought of myself (as some atheists do) as a shining beacon of reason blazing against the darkness of ignorance and myth. I thought I had it all figured out.

Later, in high school, I learned about the Universal Life Church, and the fact that anyone can get ordained as a minister. I don’t know what it was about this that I thought was so funny, but I did it. I have since made sure that my ordination is valid and up-to-date, but there I was, a high school minister. I charged 25 cents for a confession, and I think someone only took me up on that once. Again, I was mostly playing around.

I even had a little tubular piece of paper that I decorated like the Pope’s hat; I wore it on my finger like a puppet. You can just tell how serious this was to me.

I don’t know exactly what changed, but at some point in college I began to feel a draw toward… something. Actually, I need to back up. For a very brief time following my atheist phase, I had a flicker of conception of God. I distinctly remember praying to God, getting into a relaxed spiritual state, and listening to the voice that came back. I don’t think this lasted very long, but I definitely remember it.

But, in college, something came back, and I remember walking around the churches near my campus. I wanted to talk to someone, but I don’t know why or what I would have even asked. I just remember feeling so lost and empty. That day, all the doors were closed and the churches were unavailable to me. This seems appropriate, now that I look back on it. I don’t think I would have been ready for anything they had to say.

It would be a few more years before I would rediscover God in a big way, when I would reconcile the idea of the Christian God-as-Father with the things that were going on inside my head. To my own satisfaction, I had answered the problem of evil, and I was ready to accept and believe in God.

This happened during a camping trip, far away on a mountaintop surrounded by beautiful pine forests. It is an amazing place, and I’ve written many poems about it. Maybe someday I’ll even share some here.

But I went up to this mountain weary and with a heavy heart, lonely and empty. I came back a man rich in spirit, full of awe and hope. I had a fresh outlook on the world, and I had made my peace with the idea of God, an idea with which I had wrestled for most of my life. But like Jacob, I emerged triumphant and felt blessed.

It was this strange and mystical experience that led me to call myself a shaman. Unlike my initial ordination, this was something I would take very seriously, but not to the point where I can’t laugh about it. The way I see it, you go up to a mountaintop, you have a mystical experience and visions unlike anything else in your life, you make peace with God, and you come back a changed man. If that’s not a shamanic initiation, I don’t know what is.

Just to clarify, I didn’t choose this title based on any particular cultural tradition. Altered states of consciousness, a connection to the natural world, a love of God, and a desire for spiritual healing are the things that this term encompasses for me. It is a term that has been used to anthropologists to describe many traditions the world over, but I use it because it feels so right. It ties together everything about my initial experience and the others that have come after.

But even this doesn’t explain why I wept at church. That experience would come later, during another camping trip at the same place.

What I failed to mention on Day 16, when I talked about ego death, is that I’ve been there. I can’t tell you about the brainwave patterns or the science behind the experience, I can only tell you what it feels like.

In the shortest sense, it really was a “letting go.” It was like I was drifting further and further away from “myself,” and I was so afraid. I didn’t know what was happening or what was coming next, all I knew is that I felt this intense swelling of energy that wasn’t going away. After a while of wrestling with this impending something, I finally reached a place were I felt peaceful, and it was as though all the energy flowed away gently. I washed away with it.

When I came to, it was as though I was seeing the world for the first time. It was a beautiful experience; I realized how little we really see in our day-to-day life. I read somewhere that most of the time, we only see the idea of a color because we’re not really looking. I understood what that meant, because I knew what it was like to actually see color for what it was.

This was the day that I understood and conceived of God on a deeper level. This was the day I mentioned in the About page, the day that I understood God-as-Everything. This experience was nothing short of a rebirth. This experience is why I was standing in church today, unable to stop the tears from running down my face.

The story of the resurrection is so beautiful, and it reminded me so much of my own experience. It was a powerful reminder. I know from my own experience that the promise of life that Christ professed is a real promise. We can be free of living as if we are dead. We can be free to truly live.

I wish I could remember the pastor’s exact words today. He was describing the scriptures, and he said that they were true because they have the power to transform people’s lives. I could not agree more. The essence of the faith is so beautiful, and I cannot wait to get to the New Testament in order to read and understand the words of Jesus Christ for myself.

As much as I was reminded today of the beauty and inherent truth of the Bible, I was also reminded of the limitations of current interpretations. I feel like this book has so much more that can be learned from it. The only way to find out is to press on and keep reading.

Good night and good day, everyone.

In your heart and mine, He is risen.