Foundation

Over the past few days, I have been seriously considering removing all 815 posts on this site.  Something has stopped me, and I still may, but I feel like most of them are simply pissing in the wind.  Most of the posts on this site fit into three major categories:  Personal reminisces which mean little to anyone, political posts which really serve no purpose other than to piss others off and to make me feel better, and theological posts which are basically pseudointellectual babble that is barely more productive than mental masturbation, and significantly less enjoyable.

Because none of them get to the root of it.  They are all dancing around the basic problem, if not pretending it doesn’t exist, then willfully not facing up to the foundational issue that undergirds all of them.  And, if this post goes as I think it will, every single post before now will be pretty much obsolete, because I intend on taking some significant amount of time to explore that foundation in excruciating detail.

I must.  For I have nothing else.

I have, in the past, told the story about how my parents dragged me to Cedar Point, an “amusement park” in northern Ohio which I absolutely hated.  I have also told the story of how I responded to that – with the deliberate intent to absolutely ruin the event for those who thought it would be fun for me.  Perhaps their intentions were even good.  It didn’t matter, and I succeeded.

I have not posted here, however, of a company event I attended a few months ago at Main Event here in Austin.  They basically gave us an “all you can play” card and turned us loose on the place.  My reaction was far more muted, and I can’t honestly say I had a bad time – and the gesture was appreciated – but the honest truth of the matter was that as I was wandering around the game room, I had a significant sense of “rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic”.  Meaning that it was all mindless and useless entertainment, meant to distract us for a few hours from the fact that everything is going to hell.  I’ve posted about this kind of thing before.  It’s not a surprise to the one or two people who’ve read this blog more than once.

The other day I had a fairly traumatic event happen to me.  No, don’t worry about me.  I’m fine.  To be quite frank, it would only have been traumatic to me.  Most other people would barely have noticed or cared.  But in the moments immediately after that event, I started following the whole chain backwards.  The event happened.  The people responsible for it would not even have recognized it for what it was.  They were not aware of why it had such an outsized effect on me.  But then I followed it backwards.  If not them, who?  How about the fact that I was made in such a way as to be affected by said event?  How about the fact that others would cause said event to happen without a care?  How about the fact that my childhood was such that I was raised in such a way as to be affected by said event when almost anyone else would not?

Who is responsible, indeed.

Here’s the utter truth of the matter:  I did not choose to be born.  I did not choose to be raised in the cult I was.  I did not choose to be raised in the family I was.  I did not choose to have any event happen to me that did in my formative years.  By the time I was old enough to make my choices, that well had been well and truly poisoned.  There was no choice in the matter, there was no conscious agency, there was no free will.  None of the things that happened to me from the moment I was conceived were actually my choice.

So, then, whose choice was it?

One could say it was the fault of my parents, but then you follow that chain backwards, and they were just as well products of their parents, and had just as little choice.  There were some right bastards in my ancestral roots.  Probably far further than I’m aware.  Do I blame them?  No, not really.  They did do things to me, but they had about as much choice in it as I did.  To blame them and shirk all responsibility on my own would be hypocritical.  So, no.

Follow the chain back, and you find that the choice was already made, the result already fore-ordained, everything already set in stone before the world began.

The blame rests squarely on God.

We Christians love to attribute all goodness to God, and put all responsibility for that which is not good on someone or something else.  We are so desperate to do that, that we elevate Satan to a Godlike status – creating a hell that God cannot enter, even adding to the mythology the idea that we can sell our own souls – everything we can do to take the responsibility off of God and pretend that he did not create this festering hellhole we call reality.  But we don’t have many options.  He created it, or he did not.  He is all powerful, or he is not.  He is love, or he is not.   Any one of these assertions smack right up against our experienced reality, and we spend a  great deal of time and energy coming up with pretty theological explanations for why we are not seeing what we think we see and why we are not experiencing what we think we experience – and all we’re left with is a powerless, impotent God who can do very little to rescue us from the situation he put us in, in the first place.

I’ve said similar things before.  That is not the foundation.  Here is the foundation.

I hate this life.

In my view and in my experience, there is nothing redeeming about this life.  There is no joy, pleasures are fleeting and replaced quickly with misery, there is nothing to experience that does not fade away as quickly as it comes.  Except for decay.  Decay is the one constant – beginning as soon as one is conceived and running down until after eighty years it’s all snuffed out – fleeting pleasures constantly overwritten by the stench of decay, over and over again.

I hate living this life, I hate everything about it, there is absolutely nothing redeeming about this life whatsoever.  I cannot stand it.  It is day after day of nothing but abject suffering, and to me, those who are joyful and cheerful, while I envy them, will simply end up blindsided as the decay that has been sneaking up on them will finally take its toll.

This is not some kind of “note”.  I do not intend on doing anything about it.  For one of the things that makes this life so torturous is the fact that God has instilled inside us a self-preservation instinct.  Not only is this life a terrible festering pile of maggot infested crap, it is programmed deeply into me to extend it as long as possible.  So I will continue to shower, continue to go to work, continue to feed the cat, continue to see the doctor – continue to do everything necessary to continue living another day – and yet absolutely abhorring the entire idea.

This is what God has given me.  This is the existence that God has given me, and this is why I am completely, totally, and inexorably livid with him.

All of my other posts are just my trying to express this in ways that do not face this reality directly.  Writhing around, trying my hardest to find rhyme or reason to this miserable existence, when the honest truth is that maybe there just isn’t any.

So do you remember the story about Cedar Point I referenced early?  Here’s the honest truth – if there was a way that I could ruin God’s time with me by making life with me absolutely miserable, I would do it in a second.  I would see him suffer.  I would see him frustrated.  I would see him tired.  I would see him give up.  I would see him driven to smitiness out of sheer frustration and desperation.

But I am not that lucky – because what worked on my parents will not work on him.  And perhaps that’s the worst thing of all.  He doesn’t even notice.

I don’t know how long I’m going to leave this post up.  I don’t know how long I’m going to leave all of them up.  But after 815 posts, you deserve the truth, and the truth you shall have.

The Disillusionment of Marketing

Today I went to the local Corner Bakery to get some breakfast.  A routine thing to do on  weekend morning.

While I was waiting in line I looked up at the boards above the counter where the menu was located – and on the side was an advertisement for an “anaheim scrambler”.  At the top it had arching rays coming out, like you would expect from a beautiful sunrise.

It hit me like a lightning bolt – so hard that I actually had to put a hand on the railing to steady myself.

Those rays evoked in my head an image of a sunrise on a farm – the sun peeking over rolling hills, the crowing of a rooster, of eggs being picked up and cows being milked and the eggs being fried in order to create a scrumptious farm breakfast.  The only problem is, I’ve never seen a farm sunrise, I have rarely heard a rooster crowing in person, I have never had a farm breakfast, I have never even seen the sun peeking up over rolling hills.  Absolutely everything that that advertisement was evoking in me was a lie – a lie promoted by images that had already been painstakingly created in me by marketing and advertisement over my entire adult life.

The assault is neverending.  Why, just today, on Facebook, I saw an advertisement for a master’s program from the seminary I attend.  There was a stock photo of happy, smiling faces receiving a diploma in an outdoor ceremony.  One problem – it is an online seminary.  There are no ceremonies, certainly no outdoor ceremony with graduation robes.  It’s marketing.  It’s a lie.  It evokes an image in my head, of something I could do, of something I could be, when the actual reality is that it will be absolutely nothing at all like that whatsoever.

Lately, I have been miserable.  I mean, despondently depressed.  I have been angry at the world, and have seriously considered ending every single interpersonal relationship I’ve ever built up.  By and large, it’s not because of anything they did, but it’s because life has not by any stretch of the imagination lived up to my expectations for it.  In fact, my expectations for life have been frustrated and destroyed at every turn.

But where do my expectations for life come from?  Were they created from old WCG marketing materials?  Were they created from the cover of Youth ‘xx magazines, where the boys wore polo shirts and had perfectly coiffed hair, and the girls were pretty?  Were they created from watching all of the people around me at church, who appeared to have much different and more normal lives than I did, but who in actuality were probably putting on a performance just as we were?  Were they created from television sitcoms, where strife was muted, resources were near infinite, and everything was resolved within a half hour?  Were they created from Christians telling me how my life was supposed to be with Jesus and making promises they couldn’t keep? Were they created from misinterpreted Bible verses?  Were they created from years of watching commercials and being immersed into pop culture without the emotional maturity to handle the immense vapidness of pop culture?

Yes.  All that, and more.  Much more.

I read a story of a man who had a near death experience once.  When he entered the place that near death people go, he met a bunch of people.  They led him through a doorway, always leading him further and further and further through a hallway, never answering his questions – and when he stopped and refused to go further, they turned around and ripped him to shreds.  Then Jesus came and put him back together.

That is the way this world works.  People lead you further and further and further down a road of ruin, and then when you stop and refuse to go further, they rip you to shreds.

Dating

I’ve been considering writing this for a while.  And I’d normally think it’d cause me some blowback, but no one reads this anyway. 🙂

There seems to be, these days, the idea that if you choose who you are going to date based on any criteria whatsoever that is “protected”, then you are a bigot.

Alright, then.  I suppose that makes me a bigot.

Because the honest truth is that I would never, ever date a transgender person.

I don’t have anything against people doing what they want.  If people want to dress up as the gender they were not born with, and even claim to not be the gender they were born with, more power to ’em!  If they want to date each other and “marry” and do whatever, oh well.  No skin off my nose, and I frankly don’t care.

But here’s the deal.  I don’t find it something personally attractive in a partner.  I actually rather enjoy female plumbing – I mean the real thing, not something shaped by a surgeon.  I don’t like the idea of giving up the possibility of having a child of my own just because someone else has decided that my wants don’t matter.

These are the only reasons.  Morality or any other such thing doesn’t even enter into it.  I have not an iota of hatred in my heart.  I simply do not want to be in a relationship where I am not happy, and I would not be happy in such a relationship.  Full stop.

There are some that would not care what my reasons are – the very fact that I would make this statement would have me branded a “transphobe”, or worse.  To that, I will have to take one of the few pages worth taking out of the Trump playbook, and simply say this:

I don’t care.

Activists have had their say, I listened, I understood, and now I reject.  That’s that.

Duality

About a week ago, I was in the store.

I was walking down an aisle, and I felt a little bit emotional.  And as I was trying to hold it in until I got home, I wondered why it is people don’t let that kind of thing show in the middle of the grocery store.  And very quickly I came to the conclusion that the answer came down to judgement.

People would judge me.

And then a few thoughts came through in very quick succession.  Judgement comes from a concept of sin.  Sin comes from law.  And law comes from duality.

And at that point my head started to explode, because at that moment I realized that duality was the root of law.

What is duality?  Duality is the concept of there being two sides to something.  Hot vs. cold is a dual aspect of temperature.  Good vs. evil is a duality.  Morality vs. immorality is a duality.  Beautiful vs. ugly is a duality.  Everything that we use to judge people – and I mean everything – is borne out of a duality.  On one side of the duality is good, and on the other side is bad – in whatever forms those might take.  Truly, the knowledge of good and evil.

But grace theology has a few conclusions that are difficult for those in a dual mindset to stomach.  One of those conclusions is that God does not judge.  At all.  Ever.  Now you can believe this or not believe it (a duality!) but if you are to follow the ideas of hyper-grace to their conclusion, that’s where you have to arrive, because judgement is an either/or.  There is no such thing as a little judgement.  There is either absolute judgement – in which good and evil are judged without exception or mercy – or there is no judgement – in which there is no concept of good or evil.  If you try to come up with any theology that tries to enforce selective judgement, you get theologies like Calvinism – which most right-thinking people think is a pile of horse-shit.

If you, then, go towards the “all-judging” side, God ends up in a situation where he is required to sate his own judgement – and Jesus and the incarnation pretty much comes out of that as a matter of course if you want to have any kind of loving God at all.

If you go towards the “non-judging” side, our theology is very different.  Our theology, then, would imply that since God never judged us, judgement – and thus law and sin as well – must originate with us – or more specifically, originates in the dual nature of the Universe, where entropy and the laws of nature pretty much demand that there are winners and losers in every transaction or interaction.

But the idea of “winners and losers” only makes sense when there is consciousness to make that value judgement.

So it is perhaps the greatest contradiction of all that duality only comes from consciousness.  Or, more accurately, duality is an emergent property of consciousness in a zero-sum world, such as the one we live in.  It is what caused us to evolve, it is what pushed us forward as a species, but when we came to a certain point, it started to hurt more than help  – because, as we internalized duality, we became keenly aware of the fact that something always has to lose.

Sin, law, and judgement are what happens when those imbued with the non-dual, divine consciousness of God become aware of our dual, animal nature, and thus is the full measure of the battle we sign up for the minute we pop out of our mother’s womb.

The minute we say “that’s not fair”, even as a small child, the battle starts.  For suffering is simply the awareness of what we, in our hearts, know should be as opposed to what is.

 

A chain of thought…

Something I posted to my Facebook earlier.

I am about to walk y’all through a very uncomfortable train of thought.

The problem of theodicy – why God allows suffering – is a very troublesome and intractable one.

This train of thought started with a woman a saw jogging while leaving the grocery store. She was wearing a shirt that said “such a nasty woman”.

And then I thought about what she was saying with that shirt. I doubt that she believes that she is nasty herself (though she might) – what she was instead saying was that she is a woman who revels in sinning – in doing things that many people would find disgusting.

But then I thought that, if the hyper-gracers are right, that there is nothing that she could do that would truly *make* her nasty, but that instead the nastiness is in her own mind, *defined* by what she believes is sin.

As I was walking in the store, I saw quite a few beautiful women, and I thought to myself “why is it wrong to want them? Why is it wrong to desire them?” And I realized that it isn’t. If all things are permitted, then truly all things are permitted – the minute we begin to pick and choose is the minute we begin imposing our own rules on God’s creation. If there is nothing we can do in order to be rejected by God, then one must draw that to its logical conclusion – there is truly absolutely nothing we can do. Hitler himself could not do anything sufficient to be rejected by God, as truly all things are permitted. Even his truly horrific acts. This could be seen as “reductio ad absurdum” – and to some degree it is. Is there a certain level of evilness that we could commit that would make God turn his back on us forever? But it could also be the gateway into a theodicy. I will be exploring the latter.

If God does not see sin, why do we still have justice? Why are some things not permitted even when they are permitted? When it comes to theodicy, it’s particularly easy to ignore the fact that nature is, indeed, God’s creation, and by looking at nature we can see what God thinks is good.

Animals rape. Animals kill. Animals torture. Death and suffering is not only permitted, but seemingly enthusiastically embraced. There are animals out there that do truly horrific things – things that if a human were to do it they would be executed faster than you can say “John Piper”. We can’t ignore this – because God created this and said it was good. Why did he say it was good? Why did he create such a (in one sense) lawless world, set animal upon animal, and declare that all is well?

I think this is a necessary consequence of a God who does not see sin. You can’t have it both ways. Either God sees sin, and thus this world he created is absolutely unconscionable and *must* be destroyed – or he does not, and everything – horrific and terrible as it may be – is good in his eyes.

So then where does sin come from?

If God does not see sin, and we do see sin, then sin must come from us.

The consequences for doing something forbidden are earthly. You rape, you kill, you torture, you do any series of things that humanity has – for one reason or other, mostly centered on their animal heritage – deemed to be unacceptable, and the consequences come from *humans*. That’s the order of nature. We have taken the animal world – which is “survival of the fittest”, “dog eat dog”, etc., and instituted our version of order on it. Perhaps sin is our invention – and perhaps justice is *also* our invention. Perhaps when we believe that God wants justice because we are holy and righteous, we play into that false narrative of theodicy, because if justice is to be had in this world, then there must be wrongdoing, and if God wants justice for us then he must have set up a set of moral laws – and he’s already violated them.

For a God who sees sin, for a God who demands justice, for a God who punishes and is wrathful, we are already more holy and righteous than he is. For we see things that he has done, and rightly judge them by his standards, and *find him wanting*.

But, then, how do we address the fact that God wants justice, that God is righteous, that God *does* want the best? Because there’s equal evidence for that.

Perhaps this is because God wants for us what *we* want.

Perhaps he takes our animal nature and, instead of overlaying our nature on his and calling it evil, overlays his nature on ours and calls it very good? Perhaps he sees our cries for justice, and for an easing of suffering, and our desire for all the tears to dry and for the lion to lay with the lamb – not because it satisfies his sense of justice, but perhaps because it satisfies *ours*? Perhaps it is our justice that is the aberration, perhaps it is our idea of sin that is wrong, but because it is our nature as humans to suss out right and wrong, to “know good and evil”, to make sin out of what is not sin, he ultimately grants us justice *in the context of the sin that we ourselves created*?

What if sin comes from us, and salvation comes from God, not because he wants to eradicate sin from us, but because he wants to eradicate the *knowledge* of sin from us? And in doing so, because we already have it in us to create justice and create utopia, perhaps all (or nearly all) darkness in that event will completely… melt away.

Language

I got to thinking about language today.

Language is a very interesting thing.  It is something that requires both a sender and a receiver – and both have to be intelligent.  They have to be intelligent, but there’s something else they require as well – they require a shared worldview so that the concepts encoded in the language can actually be transmitted accurately.

If I say something like “The cat walked into the house”, there are several concepts that are already required.  The concept of a cat – a four legged carnivore that is commonly kept as a pet.  Walking, which is the concept of using legs to ambulate from one place to another.  And pet, which is the concept of an animal kept for the enjoyment of the keeper.  But all of these concepts also require explanation, and at some point the explanations become so granular that they lose all meaning.

But they don’t lose meaning because the concepts stop becoming important, they lose meaning because at the core of language is experience – and language is designed to communicate shared experience, in one of two ways.  Either to describe an experience that both parties have had, or to communicate the possibility of said experience.

In no way does language actually transmit any experience except for the experience of using language.

This becomes important in many ways, but one of the ways in which it is important is theology.  Language excels at transmitting the concepts of religion – which are, at their core, a basic human shared experience which is the fundamental core on which religion is built.  The transmission of the concepts take the idea of the necessity of religion as a given, and instead focus on the conceptual details of that religion:  which God exists, what its nature is, and how you can please (or displease) that God.

Language starts to break down as deconstruction of religion occurs, because at the core of a belief system that has been fully deconstructed, there is no possibility of a fully shared experience, and thus words are completely inadequate or incoherent.

I was raised in a separate culture, a culture which had its own set of assumptions and languages.  Since, as I put forth earlier, one of the major reasons that language exists is to communicate the details of a shared experience (you can tell when this has happened when someone’s words resonate with something that already exists inside you) it is a common and basic human drive to want to share one’s experiences with others who understand that experience.

Except for me, for the most part, those people do not exist.

My culture is gone, and thus my language is obsolete.  And I have nothing in common whatsoever with those who are engaged with the primary shared cultural experience.

So I can talk all I want – my words never find a landing place.  My words never resonate.  My words do not fit.

My experiences do not have an outlet.

And this, above many other things, is why I feel so dad-blamed lonely all the time.

 

A poem

Wake up to the morning sun
Things that were, that now are done
And tears flow with the darkness of the sky

Screaming to the heav’ns above
Are supposed to be proclaiming love
And instead it leaves us only wondering why

People come and people go
All the highs end in a low
And the last one out is supposed to turn the lights

But there never is a last one gone
Cause lights go out, another’s on
And the cycle of life and death and joy and slights

Continues on another day
And we can never find a way
To dig a mote of meaning from the static world of sound

Cuz every day we wake and sleep
And laugh and smile and frown and weep
And all that we take with us is a coffin in the ground.

(by me)