Monday, December 31, 2012
It is the idea of making the everyday or commonplace sacred. Allow me to share some places where it has popped up recently to show you where my reminders came from.
Father Mike's homily.
A text from a friend recommending an author.
A book that I had stopped reading that I was spurred to finish due to the aforementioned text message.
A television show.
My Christmas tree.
I'm not going to bore you with the details of each experience. I just wanted to demonstrate how the world is a funny place. I wasn't looking for the sacred or God in those moments (OK, well, I was at mass, but not in the way I was approaching it). Every single message literally, not figuratively, said, "Stop and look around, Bobby. Every moment is a chance to be "holy". No matter what you are doing, you are in the presence of God. Don't fetishize your faith. Let it be with you now, while checking your email, cooking dinner, playing with your dog, filling out a purchase order request. Stop and realize that nothing you do is mundane. You're life is a prayer and should be lived that way."
I obviously paraphrased a bit there, but let me clarify what I mean by "holy". Holy in this context doesn't mean good or well-behaved or pure. I think we've taken that word to mean something it doesn't in English. Holy really means closer to God. Perhaps I should make up a new word, Heidegger-style, like grace-filled, or God-sensing. The most difficult part is that it's really describing an emotion or a state of being and not an action. I've found that to keep one's consciousness in a particular state is the hardest thing there is. I actually feel it's what has kept me, and most people, from reaching a higher level of consciousness. We all have moments of profound emotion and thought elevation, but it is the rarest person, the saint if you will, that can sustain that level. With that I will leave to discover what that means for yourself. Happy New Year!
Saturday, December 29, 2012
I am currently watching Cave of Forgotten Dreams. They just said that the cave was only used for drawing and ritual. It made me think off my visit to Newgrange. I wonder if the burial mounds in Ireland and England were mesolithic man's attempt to recreate the caves of continental Europe. No matter the case, these discoveries and experiences never cease to instill a feeling of awe in our prehistoric ancestors. We are amazing.
Friday, December 28, 2012
I assume that most people think that Libertarians don't give a crap about anybody and that it is a very "me first" outlook. I probably won't be able to dissuade you if you connect your political view to your personal view of the world. I believe that there should be more money given to the poor and more opportunities to the less fortunate, that we should support research and promote peace throughout the world. I just think that the government is the worst way to do it. Republicans say things like that, but they lust for just as much power as anyone else. Democrats claim to want what is in everyone else's best interest, but they do it by taking away people's freedoms, or only supporting the rights of those they deem worthy. I could cite you a bibliography of all the great thinkers I've read that have convinced me that individual freedom and a free society is the only way to progress in human society. What the hell, here's a few: Nietzsche, Popper, Kant, Sartre, Franklin, Jefferson...
This brings me back to Paul. He criticized the right for wanting to put armed guards in schools, he criticized the left for wanting to curb people's gun rights. He and I agree on one big thing here. Government intervention is not the answer. There needs to be a voice of dissension when both side are selling you the same answer from different ends. The real words behind the rhetoric coming from both sides is, "Give us more power, by relinquishing yours, and we'll keep everyone safe and sound." We have become two very bad things as a society. One that looks for instant gratification (the same satisfaction that sent into two unwinable wars) and a society that looks to others, particularly authority figures to bring us that gratification. We are becoming a nation of lap dogs, waiting for our owners to open the door so we can go outside, when we have the ability to open it ourselves. The world of freedom and self-actualization is out there if we can only accept that exploration involves danger and risk and that we will never insulate ourselves from that even if we decide to hide in our "caves".
Thursday, December 27, 2012
She continued her rant, "The people at the desk told me to go down this hall, make a right, I did that and the people there told me I wasn't in the right place, so I came back to this hallway, etc."
"Ma'am, I am going to walk you to wherever you need to be, but I need to know where that is."
"They said it's by the main entrance."
"Oh that is right at the end of this hallway. Let's ask the information people here at the main entrance if they know where you need to be."
I begin, "Hi, this nice lady is having..." "I have been walking around lost for the last 10 minutes. Dr So-and-so is early and ready to start and I can't find the place, people should walk you to where you need to be, I was right over there at registration *I will spare you the continued 3 more minutes of complaining*"
We finally figure out she needs to go to the surgery waiting room, which is literally 5 steps from the main entrance. Where her husband is standing, waiting for her. I will not conjecture at this point that she probably didn't listen when the registration person told her that if she had a rock, she could hit it from where she was sitting. Perhaps our person received bad directions. That's not my point.
My point is that what she needed was to have her procedure done. What she wanted was to complain about how it was other people's fault that she was lost. The thing that she was doing was actually hindering her from achieving her real goal. Stephen Covey wrote in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People of the concept of win-win. I won't go into the details here, but the essence boils down to that in order for this to happen, people need to look deep and see what they really want. Here's a really poor example that I made up: Bob and John both want the corner office. Neither is budging. They talk it out and realize that what they both want is more room to meet with clients. John agrees to let Bob have the office and converts Bob's office into a casual meeting place. The aforementioned lady couldn't see past her need to vent about her frustrations to see that it was actually making her more late for her appointment. What she truly wanted was to be on time for her procedure. The behavior she was exhibiting was accomplishing the exact opposite.
The new year is fast approaching. I think I'm going to make my resolution to make sure that the things that I want are really the things that I want. Oh, and for those of you keeping score at home: the paradox is in the theory of Egoism. The theory says that people always do what is in their best interest. The paradox lies in the question, "Do people actually do what's in their best interest, or what they think is in their best interest; which may not actually be in their best interest?"
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
You may be thinking that the title of today's entry is referring to the amount of people that experience the let-down of post-Christmas. I am actually referring to December 26th itself. If this day were self-aware, I imagine we would skip right to the 27th, because 12/26 would have offed itself about 1600 years ago. Other than two turtle doves, the second day of Christmas completely gets the shaft. At least the 12th day of Christmas gets to be "little" Christmas. A diminutive nickname nonetheless, but at least Greek Orthodox churches and some Hispanic communities celebrate it.
This brings me to another annoying feature of "Elf on the Shelf". The elf leaves on Christmas eve to go back to the North Pole. Seriously? They get to hang out at your house and mess with your stuff all, during what I imagine to be the busy season in Santa's workshop, and head back before the big guy even gets there?! Once again, the other 11 days of Christmas are treated like chopped liver. Ok, so its not the elf itself that get's on my nerves (It does, but I'm making a point!). It just raises two glaring problems in my mind.
One: Did kids really need something to get them fired up waiting for Christmas? Were there parents sitting around saying, "Gee, little Johnny doesn't seem to be obsessively crossing off days on the calendar and spell checking his letter Santa as feverishly as last year?" How do we get him really fired up about the month before Christmas?" I am pretty sure I haven't met a 6 year old yet that needs some addition impetus to get them excited about the arrival of Christmas. First point, the elf is redundant.
Two: I think there is somewhere that kids do need to get fired up about this season. Here's a hint, it has nothing to do with Santa, or elves, or presents. It's the impending birth of Jesus. We have wonderful tools already in place for that. The Advent calendar, Advent wreath, Jesse tree are just a few. There was also a wonderful Advent flyer of things to do with your children that I thought were really cool. Getting a map of the middle east and tracking Joseph and Mary's trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was one such suggestion. How great would it be to get your kid's focused on Bethlehem instead of the arctic circle?
But I digress. Wow, you're getting two rants today! My original point was that we spend all this time preparing for this holiday. Shopping, putting up lights, baking, getting the tree, shopping, "holiday" parties, writing and sending cards; all this happens before the actual holiday. We've taken all the mirth and merriment of the Christmas time and put it in Advent! Then we squeeze Christmas itself into one evening and day. Christmas needs a ton more time to be celebrated. I'm finally in the mood to listen to Christmas music and there is not one single station that hasn't returned to their normal programming. I really wish someone would come up with an elf on the shelf like concept to help us get fired up about the other 11 days of Christmas. And there are still some really good reasons to keep partying! The Epiphany (that's when the three wisemen came, ya heathens), the celebration of Mary as Mother of God, Jesus' presentation in the temple, Jesus' Baptism. So let's keep spreading that holiday cheer and help talk December 26th off the ledge!
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Now the big question is, do we go out and seek it? Do we try and bolster our belief, or go out in search of what might negate our belief? I had an interesting conversation with someone recently that had many questions about the Catholic faith (which happens to be the faith that I profess to believe). The big question was the good ol' protestant objection that Catholics pray to saints. The truth is that Catholics don't pray to saints, they ask saints to intercede for them, just like if you asked me to pray that you'll recover from an illness. You are asking me to pray for you. Think of the word 'for' as in, "Can you finish addressing these envelopes for me?" See the distinction? Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked with my example. The point is, that was a belief that she held due to misinformation or a misunderstanding. It got me to thinking, how many of these do I hold? How many things do I believe because I've never considered the alternative, or that I haven't bothered to fully grasp the situation? Or even more poignant, How many times have I read or heard something that did in fact change my perception, but I quickly shook the idea out of my head as preposterous?
I don't think we live in a world where we can constantly be revisiting and second guessing everything we believe. There are things that I believe just based on routine alone. I don't even think about them. I believe that gravity will be working just fine and that all the laws of physics apply when I put my feet on the floor and get out of bed in the morning. I believe my cheerios will have the taste of honey nut. I believe that the red light will eventually change to green. In fact, if these things didn't happen, I would be generally surprised and most likely begin searching for a reason why it behaved differently. My cheerios taste like apple jacks! It must be because my wife switched our brand of cereal.The light is not changing. There must be a malfunction, or maybe there is a police officer controlling it because of an emergency. We find it hard to believe that honey nut cheerios would just suddenly stop tasting like honey nut cheerios for no reason. All of these truths, though, are a posteriori. There is nothing inherent in the object itself that makes them have to be that way. We would have a hard time imagining a square circle, as roundness is part of what a circle is, but we can easily conjure up an image of fire that is cold to the touch. It would be fascinating and novel, but completely conceivable. So try a gedanken experiment if you have some free time. Pick something trivial that you believe in and try to think of all the ways it could be proven false.
Friday, December 21, 2012
So did anyone use this time to reflect on what they really wanted to do with their life? I mean I know I've spent the last month poking fun at ridiculous things that could signal the end of the world, but what if today was your last day on Earth? What if today was the last day for the Earth altogether? Is there a difference between those two questions for you? Would you have lived life differently, knowing that you would not be leaving behind a legacy or someone to remember you? I was just afraid now that the apocalypse is passing, that you wouldn't have something to keep you up at night. You're Welcome.
Speaking of things that keep you up at night, I got a dog. Let me rephrase, I got a puppy. A chocolate lab puppy. He's the biggest jerk I've ever met. If you really want to give your ego a check, get a puppy. Nothing will lower your self-importance like cleaning up poop from every single room in your house, following said doo-doo bandito constantly around the house to ensure he does not repeat the heinous act, and basically having your entire life ruled by something 1/20th your size. I am obviously not handling this well. I've also read a lot about training your puppy. People who write puppy training books are also the biggest jerks I've ever met. Every "expert" has said that to get him to stop biting you should say ouch and pull your hand away. My puppy then barks at me in a way that says, "Stop being a pussy, that doesn't hurt," and then lunges at my hand even more lustily than before. Spray him with a water bottle? He likes it. Shake a can of rocks? He bites the can. Try to turn your back to him? He bites your calf. Try and put him in time out? He barks for 2 hours non-stop. I'm just letting everyone know that I'm not complaining or looking for advice. This article is my white flag. You have won, Max. The house is yours. I'm moving back in with my mom.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
1. Visited Machu Pichu. I've looked into this. The whole trip sounds like a huge pain in the ass, but I would have like to have done it.
2. Learned to play the guitar. I have no interest in practicing, performing, or developing callouses. I just think about how awesome I'd be at guitar if I starting playing when I was in my teens.
3. Learn to weld. Because who doesn't want to know how to do that? Is there an activity that makes you look more bad ass?
4. Attended one of those week long concert event thingies. Just like Machu Pichu, this sounds completely awful. I went to a one day festival, and all I remember is being thirsty, since waters were like $8 a bottle. But man, don't people have the best stories when they come back from them?
5. Learned to speak Spanish. It would totally have helped out when meeting some of my in-laws over the last 10 years. ah, regrets.
6. Skydived... skydove? I only have it on here since I'm pretty sure it's obligatory. I got really close to convincing myself I wanted to jump out of a plane. The outing got cancelled three separate times. I'm pretty sure that was God calling me a jackass.
7. Went into outer space. Just to clarify: I mean like star wars or star trek space. Current space travel looks boring as hell. "Oh my God, we're going to into outer space, what should we do?" "Science experiments!" What a waste.
8. Through-hiked the Appalachian Trail. Seriously, who has that kind of time? And I like things like food and warmth and showers and not being eaten by a bear or raped by a hobo. Too long, but always cool to say you wanted to do it.
9. Met someone rich or famous, had them find me captivating, insist that they take me on some whirlwind month of visiting exotic locales all over the world on their private jet, yacht, and train car.
10. Got really good at chess.
11. Swam in a pool filled with something other than water. I'm not picky. Maybe jell-o or noodles (no sauce, that's icky) or packing foam peanuts, hundred dollar bills Scrooge McDuck style... What? It's my list. Make your own if you think that's weird.
12. Been CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I have no idea, it just sounds like a sweet deal.
13. Achieved complete enlightenment. Maybe that comes with a front row seat to the end of the world!
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Irish television to remake "Cheers". Yeah, I had to reread the article link too. Does Ireland really need to revive the concept of a show that revolves around a bar? I have a hard time believing that they can't come up with an original bar concept. In fact, most shows I've seen from Ireland, even if they aren't centered around the pub, tend to spend an inordinate amount of time in the neighborhood establishment. I could even see if they wanted to make a show about an American bar owner, or an Irishmen opening a bar in Boston. This is a complete and true remake though, moving the bar to Ireland, but essentially having the same cast. Sam Malone will be replaced with Sean, who is a retired hurler and ex-alcoholic. The bar will be called "Teach Sean". I would have to say that this is the worst idea since starting a land war in Asia or gambling with a Sicilian when death is on the line.
Kim Jong Un voted Time magazine "Man of the Year". Time magazine does it again! Add him to the list with Hitler and Stalin. This time it was actually a prank perpetrated... eh, I gave you the link. Read about it if you want.
Being that Supreme Glorious Leader is an athiest, I bet he has no idea the apocalypse is even coming!!
Monday, December 17, 2012
I've been dying to write something about what took place on Friday. I literally separated myself from the internet over the weekend to not allow myself to become mired in the opinion spouting taking place on social media, big media and, well, anywhere else you looked. I knew that if I allowed myself even a minute to start to take in what everyone was saying, I would feel the need to respond or speak up. I will not say anything, because I know I am already wrong before I say it. I understand that we all felt real pain. That we aren't always just voyeurs or news hawks. I watched people I love, people I respect have real palpable empathetic responses to that tragedy. I had the same reaction of sadness. The difference between me and, what I feel like is, the rest of the world is that I didn't try and fill the emptiness inside me with an explanation. Sometimes horrible things just happen. But we must accept the sadness for what it is. We need to be in the moment and realize why we feel so moved by the deaths of people we've never met. And since we don't know anything about them or about the person who committed such an unthinkable act, we try to "get involved" after the fact. This is why the news outlets are interviewing psychology "experts", or why the second amendment is being criticized, or there are pictures on Facebook of an Israeli grade school teacher carrying an M-15. I read a statement today that we are all culpable in the deaths of these children and school staff. But really, they were criticizing society. The laws didn't protect us. The education system failed us. The mental health system is broken. All the waxing philosophical in the world will not bring those persons back. It won't been comfort to the grieving families. It won't heal a torn community. If we were really all culpable, we'd have to hold ourselves personally responsible for the deaths of those children. We have also moved past calling a person or the act they performed evil. Until we either take personal responsibility for the condition our world is in, or throw away the sociological rule that the world makes people bad and individually not responsible, then our punishment will always be feeling an emptiness and pain that is irreconcilable.
That wasn't the sign of the day. I didn't want to make light of that tragedy. Today's sign of the apocalypse is somewhat related though. Day #27 of The Countdown to the Apocalypse's sign:
It's never worked. It never will work. It may discourage some of the more law-abiding or repercussion-fearing people from doing it, but it will not eliminate it. These are mechanisms of control, not public good. Here are my examples so far throughout history in different places: free speech, religion, guns, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, nuclear weapons, hunting/poaching, soda, tanning, "raw" milk, gay marriage, Gaelic, owning land, gold, Jews, Catholics, Blacks, Protestants, women, illegal aliens, any immigration, I'm sure you can add your own. Needless to say, there is something on this list that you like or like to do. Stop trying to support one person's guaranteed rights while advocating the taking away of someone else's! The day we ban everything in order to protect ourselves from it, is the day we finally write the last chapter in the Book of Revelation. We have become non-persons then, accepting no consequences for our actions and no responsibility for our own condition.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
I find myself doing this constantly, thanks pretty much to Google and smart phones. There is not a single fact that I don't back check now. Oh, so and so hit the most home runs in 19 whatever? Checked! Kristen Stewart isn't from New Jersey? Checked! Toyotas get better gas mileage than Chevys? Checked! Why do I feel this constant need to confirm things? And once we find the answer on Wikipedia, why do we accept it as true?
William James once said, "Our faith is the faith in someone else's faith." It's a great quotable, but the premise of the argument that it comes from is even more astounding. We don't choose to believe. There is even a math problem out there that shows your prevalence to be an atheist or a deist. Here's an example. No matter how hard you try, you can't force yourself to believe that 2 dimes and a nickel equals 30 cents. I'm not talking theoretical BS, I'm talking someone gives you the wrong change and swears it's a different amount than what's in your hand. James was a pragmatist after all. If you'd like another example, show someone your hand and tell them you have six fingers. Why do we believe what we believe? Why are skeptics such a small part of our society? Barely any of us research and truly understand what we "choose" to believe. I can watch the same press briefing, look at the same voting record, and delve into campaign contributions, and you can think that the president is a crook and I can believe he's the savior of Western society, and yet another can believe he's the Antichrist. I think we pretend that we have an insight that someone else is not privy to, or that we "know the facts" better than those that don't share our belief. Ultimately, it seems it is not our choice as to what we believe. It does seem to be our choice as to whom we believe. Like James' quote, it is our confidence in that other individual that enables to accept a new fact or paradigm as real truth. It is usually our biases or disdain for another person that presupposes us to believe the opposite of whatever comes out of their mouth. This also pertains to how strongly we feel about something. You may believe in something, but not necessarily care if you change your mind in the future, and there are beliefs that you are willing to die for. The willingness to explore those beliefs and uncover why we believe them, and take a chance on undoing what we have known is to truly express oneself as a rational agent.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
I bring up Malthus because he fits the current theme of those that are not, per se, end times prophets, but doomsday seers, nonetheless. Now I'm not one of those that says that global warming isn't occurring. What I am saying is that we, as human beings, like to be scared. It's why we go to horror movies and ride roller coasters and tell ghost stories. I think that much of the doomsday scenarios pique that latent part of our brain that gets our adrenaline pumping. That's why people want to watch movies where a major city gets flattened by a meteor, or frozen, or burned, or Godzilla'd... That's why we can't get enough of the history channel when they talk about how the world will end. It's exciting. Even negative events are still major events and we treat them as such. The old entertainment schedule used to be sports, sitcoms, dramas and novels. It seems in today's world our entertainment has turned into reality, some more reality, staged reality, news, and news that looks like a reality show. It seems once we got a taste for real suffering, real pain, real catastrophe, the fictional substitute became too bland. The real danger here is that it's removed. It's someone else's pain and it's far away. Admit it. We don't watch it because we empathize or because it will affect us. We watch it because it's exciting. We watch severe weather like we're kids waiting for Santa to come. Do you really need a "storm tracker update" every 15 minutes? Do you really need to go out with the other throngs of people to buy bread, milk and eggs? It's the excitement of feeling that your a part of something that's really happening and it's happening on a big scale. Let's keep naming them: war in Israel/Palestine, riots in Egypt, Sandy and the Jersey shore, "zombies" eating people's faces in L.A. This isn't news, it's entertainment. It's the last cry for help of the post-modern era. I am so far removed from real people and real issues, that I crave it so badly, I will tune in every chance I get to watch other people live through a real experience. I'm looking forward to the Apocalypse since it will give everyone a chance to truly experience all at once. There will be no audience, only participants.
And that brings us back to Malthus. I think we spend our time worrying about these predictions and how we'll go. The real truth of the "end" is that it is the end of something, which always marks the beginning of something else. Malthus couldn't understand the world in terms that were beyond his current level of thinking. A dog can't have any concept what it must be like to be human. A coral doesn't dream about what it must be like to see. Humans can't even begin to conceive of reality that is the mind of God. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes,
Monday, December 10, 2012
Someone in Levittown (or Fairless Hills, depending on what news article you read) has won the Powerball Lottery. It was basically sold on the street that the street where I live splits into. If I had won it myself, I would now be 100% convinced that the world would end Friday. But wouldn't that be typical? Some working stiff finally hits it big and BAM! the world ends. I wonder if they are waiting until after next Friday, just to see if it's worth it. Actually, what I'm really wondering is if the person that hits is someone who loves me and has always appreciated me and wants to show me just how much they care in a monetary denomination.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Jesus said to his disciples:
"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man."
Now the most striking line to me is that "people will die of fright in anticipation". If anything, I feel like we are in a time where fear is the leading motivator for most people. Have you seen the show Doomsday Preppers? Or listened to any politicians speak in the last, say, 5 years? Or read an article in a newspaper, or on a current events blog? It's like we've gotten to the point that we've moved past the ol' "lesser of two evils" to "the greater of two fears". Now I'm not saying that fear shouldn't be a motivating factor and that it's not useful. Fear keeps us from petting bears or wandering down dark alleys in West Philly. It's this existential fear that I think is keeping us under the thumb of the fear-peddlers: the fear of becoming what we were meant to be, the fear of the unknown the fear of not failing, but trying. I feel like we, as Americans, as Westeners, came from a long pedigree of adventurers. The people that planted the seeds of our society had a restless spirit, consumed with the desire to see what is over that next hill. These were the founders of cities, the originators of cultures, the inventors, the discoverers. Where has that gone? Maybe it's only my perception, but I feel like every generation has become less independent, less questioning. People don't chafe at the yoke anymore. Less and less people struggle to through off the oppressive bonds of cultural mores. Even when people rebel and protest, it is usually to those predetermined as appropriate. You know what I'm scared of? You.