Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Will Swine Be The End Of Us?

Most Americans are finally showing their true colors again. For eight years, we had crazy religious nuts telling us the world was going to end. Now, it’s pseudo-science’s turn.

This swine flu nonsense is just one in a long series of scientific threats that don’t scare me. I sometimes wonder if people WANT to run around afraid. Is there some innate drive in humanity to fear ultimate destruction?

Stories such as this one show that even scientific-sounding people can still be crazy eschatologists. That word may be unfamiliar to most, because we’ve become so accustomed to religious vocabulary that terms like “apocalypse” and “Armageddon” have come to mean “end of the world.”

In fact, apocalypse merely means “lifting of the veil,” a poetic metaphor for John’s revelation of the end of times. Armageddon translates to Mount of Megiddo, which is the location of the final battle in Christianity’s eschatology. Neither apocalypse nor Armageddon are true synonyms for “end of times;” eschaton is the only word used in English that literal definition.

Science has always appealed to me because it tends to be pro-active and level-headed. While religion tends to act passively while dictating demands passionately, scientists tend to calmly get their hands dirty and report what they find.

Science is supposed to be optimistic. It should recognize problems and resolve them. It certainly does no good worrying that the world will end. Instead of worrying, we should just take what precautions we can. Will people consider me a prophet because I predict, here and now, that pig flu will blow over like every other overblown threat? I hope not.

Newspapers are in dire straits, and they’ll report on anything remotely frightening in order to sell copies. Hanta virus, SARS, avian flu, monkey pox, Ebola, even killer bees and terrorism: I let none of them scare me. I trust in the power of humanity to adapt. I believe the impossible is possible. After all, a pig flu.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Virtues - Commitment

I should begin by pointing out I have not been very committed to blogging lately. Things have gotten really busy, but my schedule is opening up (so to speak).

I'm going to work for the last time Friday. Nothing bad happened, the school year is just ending. However, it doesn't look like I'll be asked back next fall due to budget cuts. I'm the highest paid tutor where I work, and I already passed on a raise last January in order to stay employed this long. In all my years of half-assing life, I never dreamed I would lose a job for being over-qualified.

Looking for a job right now is about as fun as it sounds. However, it isn’t even my top priority. My wedding is in about three weeks, and there’s plenty to be done. I have yet to finish the vows/ceremony. We’re having a self-uniting marriage, so there is no officiate, and I’m writing the entire thing from scratch. I want there to be no mention (positive or negative) of religion. I’m not worried, since it looks like I’ll have plenty of time of unemployment before the wedding.

I don’t know what language “commitment” comes from, and I guess I don’t really care. I like the word and what it stands for. I like it much more than other terms for similar concepts. In particular, the word “duty” never sat well with me. For one thing, it’s a pseudo-homophone with “doody.” I don’t like the idea of duty, either, because it implies that people are expected to do certain things, regardless of who they are or what they believe. I think the only obligation we have in society is to stay out of the way unless you’re pitching in to help.

There’s no denying there are things in life we have to do, even if we don’t want to. However, duty often calls us to work towards an end we have no interest in. Armies and businesses rely on duty. “I was just doing my job” is the classic defense of scoundrels, from Nuremburg to Wall Street. Commitment, however, appeals to me because it always seems to apply to a personal goal.

Love is a compromise. It is also an acknowledgement that two people can achieve more together than they can alone, materially and emotionally. What makes us give up our egotistical lives in order to make it work with someone else? There is something gained, even as we are giving something up.

Of course, commitment may be crazy. In fact, we say people who are insane should be "committed." People also "commit" murder, or crimes of passion. The consequences are always severe when we commit, maybe because taking a stand is so hard.

I look forward to the commitment of marriage because I know there is no way I could ever be the person I hope to one day become without her. Nothing else in my life hinges on belief the way love does, and it is times like these I am reminded I am not without some kind of faith. There isn't much certainty in the world, but I can say with complete honesty and conviction that I have found the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with (since we all know she'll outlive me).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Virtues - Detachment

Detachment entails overcoming desire and/or withdrawing into oneself. Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism all include it prominently in their teachings. Paul goes so far as to say unmarried men and virgin women need not worry themselves with finding a mate, “for the form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:25-31).

The first aspect of the virtue, overcoming desire, is an idyllic state of being. Often sought, rarely attained, the loosening of every fetter fastening us to this world is a thing much easier to talk about than to do. Many use self-sacrifice as a training tool, with the most apparent being the ritual fast. The believer abstains from eating, despite their hunger. In this way, the adherent may learn to suppress natural urges and motivations. The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, has several legends premised on his proclivity for fasting.

The second aspect of detachment, the retreat into oneself, is also addressed as a positive in most religions. Prayer, meditation, Luke 17:21, etc, imply that there is something of value to be found within oneself, and that there is a need for calm self-focus. I can’t say I agree completely, but there is clearly a need to improve ourselves before judging others (and Jesus agrees in Matthew 7:3).

Beyond this, there is a danger of becoming self-involved and aloof if one delves too deeply into one’s mind/soul. Calm reflection may be a necessity, but to condemn and ignore the world is not something I think would work if practiced on a global scale. The hermit has his place; it is not inside society, but outside screaming crazy things about the end being neigh. For some reason, people sometimes listen and take them seriously. That, boys and girls, is how religions are born.

This is certainly the most seldom practiced of all virtues. While most people vocally claim to follow a system that preaches detachment, we are a society (and planet) obsessed with material existence. I see no fault in this, as this is the only world I perceive to exist. However, this leaves “Christian America” with no footing. We are a country that practices usury, fiscal manipulation, material obsession, and we plaster God’s name all over our money (for good luck, maybe?). If we’re a Christian nation, we’re a horrible one. Thank God we aren’t.

Systems that push detachment believe in life after death, so there is little problem in suggesting we deny ourselves the satisfaction of the here and now. I believe there is life before death. But unlike the message of greed, "He with the most toys wins," I believe the one who laughs most wins.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Swords: The Other Murder Weapon

Guns get all the press, but a much colder, more silent killer threatens America.

A 77-year old woman died in Indianapolis trying to break up a sword fight. There aren't many details in this article, but one fact I couldn't overlook is the name of the older man involved: Adolf. The swords used in this attack were a Japanese officer's sword and a sword with a "thicker blade." As a medeival weapon enthusiast, I wait with baited breath to know precisely what it was.

This wouldn't happen if people didn't have weapons just lying around. In the good old days, people just beat the crap out of each other with their fists. The fight was over quick because hitting someone in the face hurts both people, and you punch yourself out even if you win. Now, every kid has a replica sword of some kind. Why?

Douchebags sell these things everywhere. I hate salesmen in general, but people who sell dangerous stuff that has no practical purpose are a special kind of morality whore. At least some of them get what they deserve. Leave it to professional ninjas.

The only thing funnier than that video would be this. I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but what if the whole thing was a Scientology set up? Vince Offer was planning to sue the church for what he calls unfair practices. He alleges they told his Scientology co-workers to abandon his business after he left the church. How expensive could it be to pay a girl to bite the ShamWow guy's tongue and provoke an attack? It's all coming together...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quick Easter Joke

Why doesn't Jesus like M&M's?

They keep falling through the holes in his hands. Happy Easter!

The True Meaning of Easter

As we celebrate another Easter, let us stop for a minute to consider the true meaning of the holiday. It isn't about silly things like chocolate, eggs, rabbits, or Jesus. It's about Eastre, Germanic goddess of the dawn (though her name has many alternate spellings, such as Ostara).

What is essentially the month of April was called Eastre's month (Eoster-monath) by early Germanic people. April was a time of rebirth, when winter was overcome by spring. The rabbits had mad amounts of bunny-sex, and eggs would begin to appear in nests throughout the woods. Eastre symbolized not only the coming of spring, but the light of morning. She symbolized, above all, new beginnings.

Beyond this, we know little of this goddess or the worship associated with her. We know chocolate was a late addition, as this is a gift of the New World. It was not available to Europe until long after Christianity had wiped away nearly all memory of Eastre.

I like to celebrate the holiday by considering how important it is to tolerate the ideas of others. We could have been left with a rich collection of Germanic mythology to compliment what we have now (largely Greek, Roman, and Semitic). Instead, the need to suppress that which is different has left us with a holiday whose name provides more questions than answers.

I wish I could be around in a few hundred years when little Scientologists ask, "What's Christmas named for?"

Friday, April 10, 2009

Open Letter to American Schools

Dear School Administrator,

I realize the debate between creationism/intelligent design and evolution has gotten a lot of press, but I would like to call attention to a matter of equal, or perhaps greater, importance.

You see, I am not a Christian, but I believe faith should be favored over science. Religion is the the glue of society: it holds us together and gets us high.

I myself worship the Norse Gods, including Odin and Thor. It has come to my attention that schools across the country are teaching something called "plate tectonic theory." It erroneously states that earthquakes are the result of "plates" in the Earth's crust shifting.

This is most certainly not the case. You see, the truth has been known by my religion for centuries. Loki, the trickster god of fire, is tied up with the intestines of his son under the ground. There is a snake over him dripping venom, and Loki's wife holds a cup over his head. When the cup fills and she goes to empty it, the venom hits Loki in the face and he writhes in pain, causing earthquakes.

I would be most appreciative if equal time might be provided for my culture's teachings to be presented in science classes. Plate tectonics is only a theory, after all. Because it is not proven fact, any competing idea I come up with is equally valid (as is my understanding of the American education system).

In case you do not believe my religion is important to Americans, ask yourself what day of the week it is. Every business day is named after a god in our pantheon:
- Monday: Mani, the moon
- Tuesday: Tyr, the one-armed god of duelling
- Wednesday: Odin, the All-Father
- Thursday: Thor, god of thunder
- Friday: Frey, god of good weather

Thank you for your time, and may valkyries carry you on winged steed to Valhalla upon your death in glorious battle.

- Weirdbeard

Liberals and Language

If you can't tell by my posts, I find language to be very interesting. I think it is important to carefully choose every word one uses. I also think understanding the origin of words can help shed light on how humanity thinks. While these actions can add new colors to the palette of language, some believe altering the way other people speak can change the way they think.

Conservatives do this effectively with euphemism. They aren’t “prisoners of war,” they’re “enemy combatants” (pesky Geneva Conventions). It’s not that consumer goods are less safe, there’s just “less government” thanks to “deregulation.” The private sector can treat you any way it wants, because only the government has to follow the constitution (and “big government” is scary to uneducated retards clutching guns in the night).

Liberals fail miserably at manipulating language. Many feel that if people would stop using offensive language, we'd all get along. Instead of controlling people’s minds, this forces people to use even more euphemistic language in order to communicate in a manner acceptable for liberals.

In short, liberal censorship (aka political correctness) has pushed conservative thought into the realm of the abstract. Meanwhile, liberals are stuck in the literal world fighting crusades against the use of masculine pronouns. Words like retard and fag are written about passionately as degrading our society.

This is all rubbish. The answer is not to censor, but to provide better alternatives. Rather than say a stupid film you just saw was retarded, say: “That movie was so christian.” Of course, most liberals are religious. So let’s try another one. If you see something really flamboyant (like a pink VW Beetle with a rainbow bumper sticker driven by a guy sporting a faux-hawk), remark how it’s conservative, or republican. Someone may point out these groups are against gays, but that shouldn’t stop you. Republicans have successfully convinced people that the word “elite” is a bad thing. Just trust me, you can get Americans to do anything if they see cool people do it first.

Of course, you could just use the neutral adjectives like “stupid” or “flamboyant.” However, if you do this, you won’t be adding anything to the language. Languages evolve over time, and if you do not help leave a mark on it, other people will. And no, asking the Pet Shop Boys to change their name is not helping. Damn liberals, their naïveté knows no bounds.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy Passover!

Let us all celebrate that God killed Egyptian children, and may His wrath be forever appeased by our continued practice of meaningless sacrifice and prejudice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Virtues - Passion

The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
- H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

Passion embodies a strange set of dualities: ecstasy and misery. Perhaps it is this fluctuation between joy and fury that makes it both popular and despised. There are innumerable objects of passion. Any person, place, thing, or idea can be venerated. The manner in which passion is expressed is even more diverse.

If this weren't confusing enough, the results of each passion and method of devotion can also vary, based on the person. Nothing definite can be said about whether passion has a positive or negative impact. Sometimes there is a positive impact for others and a negative impact for the individual. Many are the reverse, and provide comfort to the devotee at the expense of others. What's more, passion defies control, so perhaps understanding it can never help the passionate person.

The word passion derives from the Latin passio, meaning “suffering.” This in turn is a Latinization of the Greek word πάθος (pathos), which means “arousing sympathy, pity or compassion.” This derivation helps illustrate the Christian use of the word, which is applied to Jesus' crucifixion (and the crude obsession with the gory details leading up to it).

A common theme among most definitions is that passion compels. Passion bridges the gap between words and deeds. It is fervor, the urge to act. It provides the drive for nearly every change in human history. Passion is inspiring, if not inspiration itself. However, passion has a way of causing fixation, preventing one from seeing the big picture.

Passion has been described as both a virtue and a vice. In fact, the Stoics based their entire philosophy on removing passion from one's life in order to attain a feeling of apatheia. This is not the same as the modern term “apathy.” Instead, they sought total self-control, to the point of not even desiring to do wrong.

On the other hand, many religions are “enthusiastic.” Enthusiasm is an outburst of passion, sometimes abstract in nature, other times directed by ritual. This term also originates in ancient Greek: ἐνθουσιασμός (enthousiasmos): to be filled with, or possessed by, a god. This is done in various ways by many different groups, both ancient and modern. From the rituals of the bacchanal to Pentecostals speaking in tongues, it is a common component of religion to encourage a constructive outlet for the frantic emotions pent up in humanity.

Perhaps passion does more harm than good, but I certainly don’t see it that way. Passion can also be the need for human beings to connect to others, seek approval, and enjoy similar interests. It is our passions which bind us, just as strongly as they divide us. One person’s crazed fanatic is another person’s soul mate. What if the trick was not controlling our passions, but just giving each other enough space?

Sunday, April 5, 2009


As most level-headed people predicted back in 2004, including police, the lapsed assault weapon ban has spawned a slew of attacks.

Everyone knows violence is going to happen, regardless of whether or not there are guns. The latest is a case involving an AK-47. Another incident in March also involved an AK-47.

I could go through a laundry list of cases and bore you with sob stories of the families. The bottom line is this: the violence is getting worse because we have encouraged an arms race among our own citizenry. We have convinced millions of Americans that owning a gun will make them safer. In reality, owning a gun just increases the likelihood of this.

Whatever happened to beating our swords into plowshares? Why are we flooding our country with the tools of war? Some cry that guns are one of our last industries. If this is true, why do we buy Russian AK-47's to kill fellow Americans? We've outsourced the production of our own misery. End the bullshit, outlaw assault rifles.

Virtues - Moderation

There are a few distinct ways of applying the term “moderation.” The primary context I want to focus on is its association with “temperance” or “lacking excess.” This is most often applied to consumptive acts like eating and drinking (alcoholic or otherwise). However, it is equally applied to other human endeavors, usually enjoyable leisure activities.

Moderation is often applied in the maxim, “Moderation in all things,” which is a contradiction in terms. One must be careful not to practice excessive moderation. Someone moderate in all things risks being an extreme bore. There will inevitably be some things each individual does more than is “normal.”

Normalcy is a strong component of moderation. Moderation relies upon social or cultural norms in order to determine the definition of “extreme.” However, one culture’s extreme is another’s norm, and vice versa. In a culture where no one drinks alcohol, even a sip is intemperate. In fact, the American “temperance movement” opposed all alcoholic beverage consumption, even going so far as to enact Prohibition. This seems like an extreme to me.

The preaching of moderation is sometimes thinly veiled opposition to indulgence. Moderation that calls for sacrifice and self-deprivation is not moderation at all. Moderation should allow room for enjoyment. Moderation should not call for self-denial, but self-control. Restraint and discipline, not avoidance and austerity, are the hallmarks of proper moderation.

Moderation is not a struggle; the term for the struggle is addiction. Addiction is an interesting phenomenon, with a fairly modern emergence (in name, not existence). I hesitate to apply it to anything beyond chemical dependency. However, all emotional responses to activity are chemical reactions, and are not that dissimilar from those of drug use. Add to this that humans are driven by habits, and one can see that addiction could a perfectly common human behavioral disorder.

Everything can be done in moderation by someone. William S. Burroughs was a “heroin addict” for over 50 years, and lived to be 83. He did it by staying gainfully employed, something most people can’t accomplish as a heroin user. Evel Knieval broke a record 37 bones and risked his life several times for attention, but he died at 69 of pulmonary fibrosis, completely unrelated to his daredevil profession. If moderation is a struggle, you’re doing something wrong. Hopefully, your standards are set too high. Worst case scenario, you found something you’re too weak to moderate.

Picture right now the person you respect most. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Socrates, Einstein, Mohammed, the Buddha, L. Ron Hubbard, Kurt Cobain, whoever: they’re all “immoderate” in some way. They’re all radicals. They all opposed something and sought to redefine norms. And all of them had weird personal lives. Moderation sounds great, but the results don’t lie: the world remembers weird people.

Moderation would be a wonderful teaching if everyone was the same. If we were all born as clones living in the same environment and we all had the same preferences, tolerances, opinions, and life experiences, then there would probably be a set of guidelines that applied to everyone. Instead, we determine what we think works “best” for people, and we marginalize or criminalize those who disagree. We censor our actions as well as our words. I wonder how far we’ll go to appear moderate when what we need is an extreme correction.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Virtues - Honesty

Honesty is quite a complex concept. Nearly every ethical system forbids lying in some manner, though there are numerous exceptions.

First, what is honesty? Intent is at the very heart of honesty (and dishonesty). An honest person may say something untrue, but if they believe what they say, it is not a lie; it is a mistake. So while honesty may seem to be related to truth, it is not. Whether a statement is a lie depends not upon the objective truth of the statement, but in the intent of the speaker. In fact, a true statement may be made by someone lying.

Suppose a used car dealer sells you a car which he says is in great shape and was only driven by a little old lady to church on Sundays. It runs great for 15 years, with no major problems. You think he is an honest salesman. What you don’t know is that the salesman knew the car had recently been in a major accident, was repaired for a bargain, and he believed the car would fall apart in a year or two. In this case, the salesman is still dishonest, even though the results (luckily) did not victimize someone.

The most interesting lies are not the lies we tell others, but the lies we tell ourselves. It becomes stranger still if we begin to believe those lies. Our very perception of reality may be altered by the lies we tell ourselves. No woman I know can look in a mirror and see how beautiful she is, and no man I know says he has a small penis, but I assume most think it… which is why we buy nice cars.

One cannot discuss honesty without dealing with “the white lie,” or as I like to call it, the polite lie. The polite lie is a statement made by a speaker who knows it is not true when telling the truth would insult or upset others. The classic example is:

A wife asks her husband if she looks fat in something. The husband replies “no,” either without even looking or without any consideration for whether it is a true statement.

I don’t particularly like this example, as it seems to imply wives always look fat, but I assure the reader this is not what I mean (everyone knows they only look fat around when they’re getting their period). In this scenario, the husband knows the “right” answer before making any observation. The woman does the same thing when she tells her husband she enjoys sex.

I try not to do this. You may not believe me, but ask my friends (or lack thereof) and you’ll see I’m telling the truth. Truth is all I am ever concerned with. I openly criticize everything and everyone, even those I love. It does not make one popular among fools, but it can earn respect among the intelligent. Some people want friends who will tell them the honest truth.

What if the wife in question is in fact wearing something that makes her appear fat? Perhaps the pants are too tight, and as a result she has developed a muffin top. Wearing something that bears the midriff would not be very flattering. An honest comment and simple change of clothes (baggy sweater) would be all that is necessary to rectify the situation. For guy problem, see also: cars.

This is innocent enough, but the board rooms of America are filled with opportunities for an even more dangerous, though equally infantile, game of denial. Perhaps our current economic situation might have been avoided if less “yes men” had encouraged the activities of the ignorant few at the top. There are many endeavors which have failed solely because no one had the guts to correct the boss.

We call these people whistleblowers, which isn’t too flattering. It reminds me of hallway monitors or something equally irritating and shrill. These people are more than whistleblowers. Anyone can nod their head in agreement and go with the flow. It takes a hero to stand against the stream, and even divert it elsewhere.

Honesty is something the world could use more of. Sometimes it appears that there is less integrity, reliability and authenticity in the world today. I attribute this to advertising, which is the industry of bullshit. America has perfected the fine art of deception. In a nation obsessed with appearance, honesty is in short supply. I sometimes wonder if it’s also in short demand as well. Better to just jack ourselves off as everything burns, right?

There simply isn’t enough candor anymore. People are afraid to speak up. This is a form of dishonesty: the lie of omission. This is not a lie in the traditional sense, because a lie is a knowingly false statement made by the speaker with the intent of deception. The lie of omission is deception, as the “liar” in this case knows something and purposely does not divulge it.

Worse yet, some people will not only omit the truth, they will inundate the us with meaningless drivel in an attempt to divert all attention away from the deception. Bush was a master at this. Some say he was a fool. I think he was a tactical genius. He achieved far more of his goals during his eight years than Obama or any liberal ever would.

It’s just truly unfortunate Bush felt it was more important to avenge his daddy, funnel money to the wealthy, deregulate our markets to the point of major recalls on a monthly basis, and let’s not forget assault weapons galore. All he had to do was rile up the liberal base on meaningless issues that affect almost no one, and while the liberals flooded talks shows with snide remarks about Bush not being about to complete a sentence, he was off cutting brush at home while his people did all the work in Washington. Bush got what he wanted, and he got it while staying home; that is the American dream, right there.

But I digress…

Honesty, while important, is only the tip of the ethical iceberg. It is superficial. Actions are the true measure of one’s morality. Words would have no power to them if they did not inspire, or incite, action.

Atheist April & A New Theme

For my first post of the month, I want to announce that April will be Atheist month. I picked it because of a post by Uruk which I found amusing.

The story goes: a judge dismissed a case by an Atheist (obviously a big A) who was suing to institute an Atheist holiday. The judge quotes Psalm 14:1 (The fool says in his heart there is no God), and it is declared that April first is the Atheist holiday, since it is April Fool's Day. The judge's logic is flawless, because as we all know, the bible is American law.

So even though I will be going in to work today, I will be celebrating Atheist April by kicking it off with a nice April Fool's Day. While Uruk is quick to distance himself from the name-calling, I like it. There's nothing more natural and cathartic than honestly telling someone what you really think of them. For one thing, it quickly clears up misconceptions. If I call someone something and it doesn't actually apply to them, they're quick to point it out. If I had kept it to myself, who knows how long I would have believed them to be something they weren't.

However, the original word translated, according to my fiancé, is more closely degraded, evil or wicked. She had quite a bit of commentary on this passage alone. The commentary seems to say that the man overcome by passion says there is no god. This may imply the original intent was that believers undergoing anguish would question their beliefs.

There are far worse things than being a fool. While often associated with stupidity, this would be an incomplete definition. It can easily mean a trickster or joker, especially in its use for the holiday. This is its second listed definition on dictionary.com, and entering "fool" into Wikipedia will take you to the entry on "Jester." Its use as a pejorative dates back to late Latin, when the word follis (which meant bags of air or bellows) was used to refer to talkative people as "hot sacs of air," or the more familiar "windbags." It further changed over time to refer to entertainers, often comedians or court jesters. As far as I know, all of these apply to me.

So in light of this, I plan to work "fool" and the verse from Psalms into my blog's title. I will also be starting a brief series on virtues, where I will analyze various traits like honesty (my first subject) in my own view. This will serve to direct my posting in a logical manner AND help me to focus on not bashing religion, which I think is a topic I have exhausted.
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