The Way

Even if we knew the solutions to our impossible problems, (racism, sexism, crime, poverty, hunger, illness, violence) we would not be able to solve them. Our system is not built for such radical change.

Picture this. A man sleeps in his bed. He is visited by an omnipotent cosmic creature that wants to help mankind. The creature whispers in his ear the way for man to live together in peace and harmony. Where suffering is minimized and everyone can eat as much cake as they want without gaining weight. The man wakes up.

What can he do with that divine inspiration? How best could he reach the world to show us the way?

The man could try out politics, the game of compromise. But to enter politics, he’d need money and a good reputation. He’d need to appear to be what the people wanted so they would vote for him. If he had a stammer, showed weakness or was born the wrong race, he could fail right out of the gate. He’d have to shake hands and kiss butts for a long time before he could start enacting any change.

He’d have to be able to withstand the media and the mud-slinging from other politicians. His solutions would be radical therefore controversial and dangerous. He’d have to keep them bottled up or he’d end up scaring off voters. Even if he were completely right, he’d end up losing. Being right doesn’t guarantee you votes. He’d have to learn to smile for the camera. He’d have to join one of the two major parties if he wanted to really get anywhere.

Even if he made it to the top and became President, he’d have only eight years at most to stir America the right way. And that would be only America. The rest of the world would be lost to him. If people didn’t see results instantly, he’d be out in four years for someone else pretending to know what he knew. He’d face difficulty from the corrupt for his entire life if radical change did come. He might end up assassinated. Then the way would be lost.

He could try his hand at religion. He could create a church that worshiped the divine creature that visited him. . Persuasion would be a necessary tool to get started. A community would have to be born that believed in him and his way. But without the inertia of tradition, why would anyone listen to him? What separated him from the mentally ill and insane?

If he were charismatic, he might be able to start a cult. H might be lucky enough to build a grand church out of that. But the way would end up lost when he passed away. His disciples would interpret his teachings as best they could. But they would be human and therefore selfish. The way would be stained by their desires. Changing whenever it benefited them.

Academia is another path. He could write down all he knew. He might end up in peer-reviewed journals. His message would reach an elite group of intelligent people but be lost to the public. He’d receive awards for his brilliant writings. He could become so noteworthy that people would teach classes about him and his philosophy. A few students might end up inspired to do their best to carry on his way. Others might see his way as a reason to hurt others.

The man would best be suited to going right back to sleep and pretending he never heard a thing.

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Where would you prefer to die?

What if you could choose where?

Not choosing to end your life early, but to pick the time and place your life naturally expires. We’re lucky enough to live in a time where we will die in a hospital.

The doctors will give their best effort and it won’t be enough. We’ll pass away under those bright white hospital LED lights. Our last sounds will be the beeping of medical instruments and chatter from the medical personnel. Our families might be there with us before we go.. Some of us will even be fortunate enough to say our goodbyes.

I’d hate that.

I’d want it to be a cool autumn night on the side of a forest lake. October cool not November. My old wrinkly feet down in the briskly cold lake. I’m laying down on this dam coast as the water retreads in and out. I’d follow the fish swimming beneath me with my eyes. Silent other than the blowing wind. It beats me on face. Me and the night sky. The stars are out. I try to guess the constellations but I’m no good. No friends or family. No doctors cutting into me, trying to squeeze out a few more seconds of life for me. No struggle. Calmness, peace. Serenity.

One last glimpse into the night and then…

The Surprising History of Sex and Love

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1md4xh_the-surprising-history-of-sex-and-love_shortfilms

I’m in the midst of researching for a novel I want to write sometime this year. It’s been bugging me for the past year and a half. I’ve been watching and taking notes on documentaries about love, sexuality, marriage, and divorce.

This documentary is a very solid one. It’s a quick trip through the history of mankind’s relationship with sex and love. Have you ever wondered where the concept of “hot blondes” comes from? Have you ever wondered which cereal was invented to deter masturbation? You’ll want to watch this.

It’s crazy how sex was once out in the open and then became a shameful act. Some dude decided this biological urge was wrong. And then everyone had to follow that dude’s rules for hundreds of years. That sentiment lingers today.

Cultural inertia is a powerful force.

For Goodness’ Sake.

The holidays are over. But I’m not done with them quite yet. There’s this saying that comes up during this time of the year.

Be Good for Goodness Sake.

It’s Kids who act good for reward. Do not be good because you want to be rewarded. Goodness is itself a reward.

This is a good idea. We want genuinely good people, but doesn’t work in practice. Most people are not this way. They work on the “Pay It Forward” system. They are good expecting other people to pass on that goodness. They desire their goodness to be appreciated and returned at a later date. This isn’t wrong, just not good for goodness sake.

No person can be truly selfless.

If there were a person who loved everyone and was selfless, they wouldn’t live in this country. You’d never hear of them by their choice because they wouldn’t care about their reputation. They’d spend their entire able-bodied life in a third world country, getting the less fortunate the help they need. They’d fight against bureaucracies and the cultural inertia that leaves those people in the spot they’re in. They’d have no time for the pleasures of life.

That statement reminds me of a news story I saw on TV a decade or so ago. There was this man who went out of his way to give back the community. He was a regular volunteer for his town’s soup kitchen. He gave money to various charities. He thought more far more than any normal person would. Then one day he met a homeless man. Winter was coming. The homeless man had nowhere to stay. The moral man had no room in his house but he built a small fort for this man to live in. He showed him how to make a fire pit. He left the man food and water on a normal basis before he went home to his wife and two kids. He checked in on him during the snow season. Then one day, he came with blankets to . The homeless man demanded money this time. The moral man refused. The homeless man stabbed him in the stomach with a shard of glass. He ran away and left the moral man to bleed to his death.

I won’t forget that story. It was an extreme case, but goes to show selflessness can get a person into trouble in the real world. True selflessness is a one way ticket to being taken advantage of by selfish people. You have to be little selfish so you can enjoy life. Make time for yourself. Pursue the things you want. Selflessness is an ideal we can’t reach.

An unfortunate truth.

Apologist for the Divine

I try to tolerate people’s religious beliefs to the best of my ability, but there are still some things about certain monotheistic religions that really make my blood boil.

Every time there’s a horrible tragedy, priests come out of the woodwork to justify the horrible event. Somehow all the death, destruction and other pain was good for the community in the end.

It’s every terrible event. Whether it’s a shooting, a natural disaster, or a disease outbreak, it was always better for us in the end. Listening or reading comments like these is like listening to a friend justify a bad purchase or investment.

Eventually you can convince your friend that they did do something wrong. You cannot do the same with these apologists.

The believer in a faith cannot ever admit that their infinitely good and perfect divine being can be wrong so they must rationalize the world around this fact or blame all bad things on the devil. I hate reading these articles trying to see the bright side of just atrocious killings so they can continue to believe in this being.

They look for every inch. If someone survived a terrifying shooting, thank god they survived. If they died, thank god they didn’t live and suffer or thank god you weren’t there. No matter what happens, God is always right and he wins.

I get why people do this but I think they should be a little more critical of God. Instead of accepting bad things, complain. Maybe God would try to improve then. If you’re just going to follow him, no matter what, why would he would even try?

Instead of rationalizing tragedies to fit the logic of your religious book, why not threaten to worship another God? Like Thor. He’s pretty cool. He’s  got a hammer and beats up aliens. He’s even got his own movie.  If you go to another God with your prayers and worship, the Christian God will have to clean up his act. He needs people to worship. If not, he’ll just be some infinitely powerful and divine being that nobody cares about or loves. Everyone wants to be loved even God.

Unless you think this is the best possible world ever and God does his best work. I’d disagree. There’s no magic. There’s no dragons or any cool stuff. This world is boring. Think of how this world could be improved if we could fly or teleport or absorb the power of the Xandarin world mind into our bodies and become human rockets.

Challenge your divine being to do more. Do not settle. If you don’t get what you want, take your worship elsewhere. Brand loyalty is overrated.

Chronicle Number 3 Pt. 2

Questions are an important tool that humans use to understood the environment around us. Why does the apple fall from trees? Why don’t we float into space? Are we the center of the universe? Where did we come from? Why am I here? What is my purpose? What made me?

Religion answers some of these for people. It gives them purpose. It gives them a community that they are a part of. I don’t think religion as an idea is evil. It does motivate people to do good, but also it can bring out the worst in some people.

The big religion on the block today is Christianity. I remember as a child, I was very confused by the different sects of it. Catholic, Protestant, Methodist. What are the differences between these? Are they all correct?  Can they all possibly be? Does everyone in these sects get into heaven?

All my friends went to CCD. I didn’t go to that. Were they all more saved than I was?

I’ll remind you that as kid I didn’t have a clear picture of what God and Jesus represented. They were protectors. They were there to protect us from Satan, Lucifer.

God was the creator of everything. He knew all. He could do anything.

He sent his son, Jesus to die for our sins. Jesus revived and then went somewhere. (As a kid, I never had an idea of where he went. I just knew he left.)

Satan wanted souls so he could torture people in hell. He tricked people and wanted them to sin.

Adam and Eve had been the first two people ever. Eve gave Adam fruit from the Tree of Fruit after being tricked by the snake. This is why mankind needs to be saved.

That was Christianity as I understood it. I also knew some bible stories like Moses, David and Goliath, Noah, Jonah.

It was after I was given this information that I had some questions.

We were told that we were all children of God. I remember asking

“If we’re all children of god, then how come Jesus gets such special treatment? He got to come back after he died.”

The answer I receieved. Jesus and God are one and the same. This only served to confuse me further.

So God sent himself to die for our sins?

The Adam and Eve story confused me immensely. Where were the dinosaurs and cave men? Were they in the garden?

My father told me that parts of the bible weren’t meant to be taken literally.

Which parts do you know are meant to be taken literally then?

I had simple questions like these. They didn’t piss anyone off. My parents were glad to give me answers even if I didn’t understand any of them really. I continued to pray every night until I reached ninth grade. I never enjoyed going to Church, but I had to go because my parents made me. My father moved up the rankings in our church. I never viewed him as incredibly religious at this time.

This one time my cousin took me to a Catholic church. It was a different experience than the one my parents sent me. I understood everything that said. I still didn’t enjoy it.

One day in my English class freshmen year, my teacher made this comment that Shakespeare probably helped to translate the bible. This shook some foundation in me.

I had never once thought of the bible being translated from language to language.

Men translated the bible? What if they made a mistake? My parents didn’t really have an answer for this other than that it was impossible. I wasn’t satisfied with their answer. I set off to the internet.

And I found a variety of answers. I was further confused by this. It was then that I happened upon a website that blew my mind.

http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

I never went on the site. I just saw the link.

I sat there in my chair. I couldn’t think of a single good reason for why God couldn’t heal amputees. He could do anything. Anything.

If God is good and can do anything, why not do it? Why has this never happened?

The answers I received were

“Man cannot comprehend God.”

“It’s not in God’s plan.”

What? He has all the power in the universe and he can’t make one person’s arm grow back. What plan is this? Why is that not in the plan? That would make more people believe in him. There was one answer that I particularly didn’t like.

“He’s testing them.” Wait. Doesn’t God know everything? Why would he test people if he already knows what’s going to happen? Why test those specific people too?

Then my brain stirred up another question. “Why did God put that Tree in the Garden of Eden, if he know Adam and Eve would eat it?”

My father always had an answer for questioning this.

“God didn’t want mankind to be robots. He gave us free will so we would choose to love and praise him.” This answer didn’t satisfy me either.

“Why does God need praise and love? Isn’t he perfect? Why make a choice between hell and heaven? That’s not much of a choice. It’s basically the same thing as being a robot.”

Why would he make the snake? Why doesn’t he show up today? Why did God need to rest on the seventh day? Why does there need to an apocalypse? Why did God make hell? Why don’t other people come back to life when they die? Are Christians the only ones who can get into heaven? Where does evolution fit in? What about people who are good but aren’t Christians?

The answer to the last question was always “God will judge them accordingly.”

What if they went to hell? That didn’t seem right to me at all.

The internet held a lot of information bringing up the question of God’s existence. The suffering of people particularly made me question my faith in God.
Why is it that someone can be born in a country that they will starve to death and God does not intervene?
Is it beyond him? Why allow this to happen? He can see all. He can do anything. Yet He lets them suffer.

Children are born with defects. They die of cancer. Even devout Christians are not free from the evils of this world. They bleed. They suffer. They can die horrible deaths. Where is their protection? They’ll get into heaven? That’s the best God can do.

The priest at my parent’s church told me this when he heard that I was asking questions.

“Christianity has stood for a long time. People have attacked it for years. And it still stands today for good reason.”

I went home and thought about what he said. I then realized this wasn’t an argument he should be making. It just made Christians seem stubborn in their beliefs. For 2000 years, someone has had a problem with their religion. Their religion with a perfect all loving God. Something was off here.

I looked up the history of Christianity and became more familiar with its criticisms. I looked up atheism and humanism at the same time.  I didn’t like “Do what God says.” aspect of Christianity. Are you really acting good if you’re only doing to get to heaven and because God tells you to? As people, we should do good because we want to.

I came across an atheist rapper known as Greydon Square. I didn’t listen to much rap at that time, but I enjoyed Greydon Square lyrics. There was one lyric in particular I really liked.

“I’m dreamin’ of a world where there’s no such thing as the Bible Belt
Instead of lookin’ up you look inside yourself
and when you do find yourself
You help somebody else”

My parents continued to force me to go to Church. I gave them excuses for not wanting to go like “I don’t understand anything” and “it’s boring.” They still forced me to go. I went there and I hated the sermons. I just had to sit there and listen to an opinion I didn’t agree with.

One day the priest yelled at us, ” I didn’t evolve from some ape.”

I looked around as he said this to a crowd of people who agreed with him. They burst into song. I shook my head, got out of my seat, and walked out. I waited on the stairs for the service to be over. This became my weekly routine.  I’d go and walk out once I had had enough.

Eventually my parents confronted me about it. August 2007. I told them it was because I didn’t like it. I told  them I didn’t understand the language spoke. They offered to send me to my cousin’s church.

I told them no. They keep pushing me for my real answer. So I finally gave it to them.

“I don’t believe in a god.” This was complete honesty. I had no more faith in the religion of my parents.

They were not amused. My mother cried and prayed. My father told me that atheists weren’t happy. My mother said she wouldn’t give me anything to eat if that was the case. My father told me that having an atheist for a son was not the plan he had.

I talked to the ceiling for the last time that day. I asked for a sign.  Of course I received none. I’ve never been able to confide in my parents since that day. I think I grew quite bitter over that. They had such a negative reaction when I told them something honest about myself. I never said it just to make them angry or to rebel. I told them the truth about how I felt. They condemned me for it. In turn, I respected them less. I thought they were there to support me every part of the way.

We’d have arguments over me not going to Church. My father in a last ditch effort to restore my faith tried to hold bible studies for me. It didn’t work. I couldn’t believe in an all powerful, all knowing all loving God. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to be a part of their religion. It all seemed like a huge waste of time. Praying, fasting? It didn’t make any difference. You weren’t safe.

Christianity became a sore spot for me. The day after my mother said she wouldn’t feed me anymore, she asked me to fold the clothes for her. I looked at her and asked her which was more important in her life, God or her children.

And she said God. Being a smartass, I told her to ask God to do it for her and walked away. She knew those clothes would not fold themselves no matter how much she prayed so she folded them.

Once I questioned the existence of God, I could question anything. I questioned every rule I met. Why should I be nice to everyone I meet? Why should I leave a tip when I pay at a restaurant? Why do children need to be spanked? Why do people need to get married? Why is alcohol seen as a good thing? Why?

The world made a lot more sense as I looked for the answers for these questions and came up with my own conclusions. I don’t hate anyone who is Christian. I can sorta see where you are coming from. I’m not sure if the world would be a better place without religion. Many people have trouble constructing morals without the bible.

I just wish religion didn’t get in the way of progression some times.

 

Chronicle Number 3: Ascent Into Atheism.

Christianity is a big thing in my family. My father is a choir master and supposedly a big man in the church. His sister is a priest. My mother is an avid churchgoer. My father would sometimes read the bible with me but very rarely. He mostly told me the stories of Anansi the Spider before I went to bed.

As a child, Christianty made sense to me. There had to be something to protect us all. I didn’t want to go to hell. I had to be a good boy.

And I was sometimes. I would go with my mother to church. I didn’t enjoy it very much. It was a Methodist Ghanian church. There was a lot of singing and dancing. They spoke in the Ghanian language. The music was loud. And they always asked for donations. It wasn’t very fun to go every Sunday night with my mom for three hours.

My mother got me to join the youth club. She bought me a bible. I remember getting there very early. It was just the pastor, his wife and me. I told her I had just gotten this bible. The pastor told me to start reading some chapter. His wife told me not to read it like a storybook. I never understood what she meant by that.

She died shortly after that talk with me.

I remember once the school year had started. The pastor had a sermon about making sure that the devil didn’t tempt any of the congregation’s church. He had all of us kids line up and chanted sayings like “Get out of this child! By The Blood of The Christ! This child is saved!” I remember when he grabbed my forehead. He told us to close out eyes before hand. An image of the devil in the sky rising from my body entered my mind.

I was never baptized as a baby.

As a child I used to pray to God. I’d say, “Please protect my brother, my mother, and my father.” I would begin the family prayer before big meals.

“May this food be bountiful for years to come and may you protect all of us. ” My family loved it.

In 2004, we switched churches. My mother stated the pastor of our old church was deeply saddened and shocked by the untimely death of his wife. We joined another Ghanian Methodist Church. I remember me and my father sitting in the car parking lot, December 31st. My father told me that 2003 had been a hard year. I didn’t understand how it could have been. Smackdown Here Comes the Pain had been great. After the clock hit midnight, he brought me inside the church.

We went up and sat. I looked around. There was a chair with a man’s name on it as well as his date of death. I had to sit and look at it. I thought about how I would never meet this man. All I would ever know of him was his name. That I have now long forgotten.

The sermon was in a language I didn’t understand. But then there came the time for first timers to come to the front. There were several of us. I remember my father saying that free time for me was bible study time. I did no such thing. It’s always puzzled me why he said that.

Going to church was always a big hassle. I’d have to be woken up by my dad far earlier than I wanted to be. He’d get really angry if he had to wake me up three times. That’s my dad’s life code. If the first two times, he tells you to do something he’s calm. But that third time, now he’s losing his temper. Some would believe this to be a fair system.

You have to dress nice to go to church. I’d wear my Sunday best just like all the other little boys and girls. We’d go to church and then I’d sit and not understand anything being said. There would be singing of songs. Some of the songs were nice to listen to. The church was adamant about getting everyone to stand and dance. If I didn’t dance I’d be yelled at by my mom or dad until I stood up.

The new church had youth sessions too. I didn’t know any of the other kids well. I didn’t talk to anyone but this one kid who liked video games. He told me he could fix my Pokemon Silver which for some reason didn’t save anymore. I found out years later there was no way he could have fixed it. I’m really mad he still has my Pokemon Silver.

The youth sessions were always about getting us to talk or watching a video. We once watched a video of Adam and Eve. I noticed both of them had pale skin. I asked then where did black people come from if they are both white.

The other kids gave weird answers like Adam actually being rainbow colored and appearing white. I remember the overseer for the kid’s youth group touching me on the arm in a very weird way. He wasn’t like a pedophile. He was just weird.

I didn’t have many interactions with the other kids. I learned one day what they thought of me. This girl thought that I thought I was so good because I carried a bible around all the time.

I didn’t have a choice of going to church or not. When my father would go too early to take me, he’d leave it to my mother to take my brother and me.  Rarely I would get out of it. When I did, I would be punished. My game controllers were taken away. So most of time I ended up sitting there and not understanding what was said.

Then the pastor started having english sermons. Jesus was a protector. He was there to save me. He died for my sins. The devil was there to make sure I went to hell. But with Jesus and I could be saved because as my mom’s favorite church song goes,

God you are wonderful oh God you’re so good.

Hell seemed like a scary place to be. Infinite torture. Fire. Not a desirable end. So I was on Team Jesus.

It’s funny the little things that can make a crack in your faith. It’s probably because my faith was never based on anything stronger than what I was told to believe in.

As a kid, I had a friend named Joe. I don’t know what he’s up to now.

As a kid, Joe was a pretty cool guy.

In 6th grade science class during a talk between he and I, Joe V told me he didn’t believe in anything without seeing it for himself. I was baffled.

“How can you not believe in God?” I asked him.

He shrugged.

This idea became the foundation that would cause me to question things.

In religion, people don’t like it when you ask questions. I learned this the hard way.