I was born three times. The first time, it was a physical birth. The second, I became a born-again believer and accepted Jesus Christ as my Personal Savior. The third time, I gave up Jesus and was reborn into The World of Rational and Critical Thinking People.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became a man, I gave up childish things.” - 1 Corinthians 13:11.
(And believe it or not, I’ve misused scripture in worse ways. During my college years I justified drinking with Mathew 4:4, “Man cannot live on bread alone!” And in keeping with the wisdom of King Solomon, I abstained from all labor under the sun because “vanity of vanities, all is vanity! What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?” I knew my catechisms.)
Nowadays I wouldn’t call myself a skeptic, atheist or anything like that. I still believe in a lot of things. A lot of crazy, far-out things too. I’ve also seen some crazy, far-out things (as if that counts for anything). But I have learned to be distrustful of the things I believe and even the things I have seen. Because I have been wrong before (read: because I have been Christian before), I will always be suspicious of my beliefs. I am distrustful of them. I am wary of my own personal biases. I would not kill for them. I do not look down on others who do not believe the same things I do. I do not accuse others of committing a crime, worthy of eternal punishment, for not drawing the same conclusions I have about God (or lack thereof), our origin, destination, etc..
Because genuine belief or disbelief does not equate to sinfulness or wrongdoing. “Credulity is not a crime.” Your willingness to believe something says nothing of your virtues as a person or the quality of your soul. It is just that simple.
Sure I could choose to believe that the Bible was the inspired word of God. It would be easy. I could also choose to believe in countless other books written by countless other people, all pouting the same thing, that theirs is The One True Religion, that, when you die, you go one place really great if you followed all the rules and procedures correctly, or one place really bad if you didn’t. Too bad if you were born in a Muslim country or, from the perspective of the Muslims, too bad if you were born in a Christian country. Too bad if you made the mistake of believing in the wrong thing during your lifetime. It’s off to the eternal soup with you… And that soup is hot.
Well, that could be true – any number of religious dogmas could be true. Theologians use a lot of smart-sounding words and arguments after all, there’s the Ontological Argument, the Cosmological Argument and I hear they’ve even got a teleological one. But there is one argument which defeats them all, and it is not taught at seminaries, or any religious institution for that matter. I’m speaking of the argument of Common Sense.
The Common Sense Argument says that God didn’t give us free will so he could command us to use it the way he wants us to. That God didn’t do the most honorable, glorious act ever by sending his only son to die for us to save us from … himself. That voice inside your head which Christians believe is The Holy Spirit? That’s actually your conscience speaking. Your conscience, not to be confused with certain members of THE ALMIGHTY GODHEAD.
And regular, plain ol’ heathen folk have consciences too. We’ve all got magical voices in our heads. Alright, none of us are perfect. The very word human implies flawed, hence why we say things like I’m only human. We’re only human but we are at least better than the evil, worthless hellbound pukes popularly depicted by The Bible and other great works of fiction. Everyone struggles to do the right thing, just as much as they struggle to do the wrong thing. We’re not good or evil. We’re both. Isn’t that fairly obvious?
I’m convinced Christians experience some form of masochistic pleasure when they belittle themselves in worship songs about how dreadfully, sinfully unworthy they are and how wonderfully, majestically glorious god is. But here’s a question: if I’m such an evil little ant, why does God need my praise? And if God doesn’t need my praise, why give it? The truly devout do not ask questions like these because that would make them un-devout. They cannot be convinced that their entire life was built around a delusion. It would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, if I may borrow the expression.
And speaking of delusions, I despise the Christian tenant that this life is a meaningless speck of dust in comparison to eternity, so we might as well just give it all up to Jesus. And that a temporary existence without God would be tragic and meaningless so … heck! Might as well just give it all up to Jesus!
Could it be that one day I will die and everything I did and all memory of my life will eventually be forgotten? That might be true. But nothing can change the fact that I was once alive, that I was here, that I lived and did things, that I happened. Whether I can or cannot be remembered has no bearing on the fact that I happened. I actually happened dammit and that’s enough for me. It has significance. So I am not intimidated by the thought that there might not be a God or an afterlife. At least not intimidated enough to break my ass on an old wooden pew for an hour every week. I can find more worthwhile things to do with my time on Sunday morning like sleeping or reading or making waffles.
Besides, I am not convinced death is the end. We are all born with that same intuition which refuses to comprehend non-existence, which tells us there is more. I believe there is something hiding behind the curtain. I could be wrong.
And if it turns out the Christians got it right, I doubt I’ll be eligible to pluck on harps in the clouds with the flying naked babies for the rest of eternity. I would be a hypocrite to not admit that I might be wrong. Erroneous is a more fitting word because wrong implies wrongdoing, but if the Christians got it right, I’m going to hell for sure. God will boil my ass. Forever! Along with most everyone. Though, honestly, I wouldn’t see the point in any of that (Christians cite something something er uh FOR THE GLORY OF GOD! something something something). Still, I am not afraid. I’m okay with that. That’s a risk I’m willing to take (which, coincidentally, is the same thing I’ve told myself before making my best life choices). I’ll take my chances with most everyone.
Same goes if, on the off chance, the Qur’an isn’t a load of horseshit. If the Muslims win the come one, come all Dice Roll for Eternal Destiny, I doubt Allah will be rewarding me 72 virgins, especially since I just called his holy book a load of horseshit (and I would add that the prophet Muhammad is a NINNY, but that’s as far as I’ll go because I value the area of flesh and bone that connects my head to my shoulders). If the Hindus got it right then I guess I don’t have too much to worry about. Unless I’m reborn as a malformed Aardvark or something. Maybe I’ll be reborn as a cow? I think I’m moo material. I’d also settle for a moose (Cool!) Nirvana? (Awesome!) But no matter what happens, I’m sticking with my guns.
I’ll pull a Marcus Aurelius (or whoever it was) and take comfort in the fact that If there really is a God and he’s a double-o God, a good God, then he will understand why I have chosen the path that I have chosen.
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“Money doesn’t buy happiness”
Yeah but I’d like to make some and find out for myself just to be sure.
“Looks can be deceiving”
… and so can personalities. Idiot.
Come to think of it, looks aren’t at all deceiving in comparison to personalities. If you’re ugly, you’re ugly. If you’re fat, you’re fat. There’s no hiding it. But if you’re an evil, treacherous, lying conniving bitch, there’s plenty of ways to hide it. It’s a magical thing I like to call the makeup of personality.
“If life give you lemons, make lemonade.”
Let’s face it. When life chucks you a bag full of lemons, the last thing you want to do is make lemonade. Lemon squeezing is tough work. Sometimes the lemon juice gets in your eyes. Forget lemons. I much prefer it when life pours me a straight glass of lemonade. Or Whiskey.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
First off, what picture are we talking about and what words are we talking about? The truth is in the details. Somehow I don’t think a picture of some old grandpa’s ass crack holds a candle to 1,000 words of William Freaking Shakespeare. Now if it’s Stephenie Meyer we’re talking about, I don’t think her writing holds a candle to a picture of some old grandpa’s ass crack. So you see, it would be difficult to find a picture that was worth exactly one thousand words. Unless of course you took a picture of a thousand words … wow, that’s metaphysical.
“There’s no I in team”
But there’s an an M and do you know what M stand for?? ME!
“Think outside the box”
The very fact that you are repeating that cliché means you have failed, utterly, in your own attempt to “think outside the box.” The very meaning of the idiom contradicts its usage…
“Don’t think outside the box. Don’t think inside the box. Think about the box.”
I made that one up working at the ol’ box factory. I told all my coworkers. I thought it was very clever. To this day I continue to use it as an amusing anecdote in conversations… No one has laughed at it yet but I remain hopeful.
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There is a place in my mind I like to go to: it is an oasis, a mental paradise. Often when I am bored at work, stuck in traffic or in the midst of some mundane task, I escape to this place. There is dancing and music. Endless beaches. There is laughter.
People do not argue in this paradise of mine. Instead, if they disagree, the tradition is to give each other chocolate. Yes, chocolate. And they don’t have to go to the store and buy the chocolate. Instead, they need only say the word and Katie Perry swoops down from the sky in a giant cloud of cotton candy and showers the hardy disagreers with bars of chocolate. She is just like the guys on clouds in the original Mario Brothers except she throws chocolate bars, not hammers, and she is much prettier than 16 bit turtles in technicolor.
Oranges, tangerines and clementines grow from the trees, except they are shaped and peeled like bananas. Bananas are much easier to hold and peal than any member of the citrus fruit family…
IZ is there too, strumming his ukelele, on a ledge, that place where trouble melts like lemon drops, high above the chimney tops. Kids bounce on his belly, like a giant waterbed.
And muffins. Yes. Have I mentioned muffins? They’re everywhere. As far as the eye can see. Covering the shiny hilltops. They come in all different shapes and sizes. All different flavors too. There is one flavor that I particularly like: the happiness flavor. Have you ever tasted a happiness flavored muffin before?
You will never know happiness till you have.
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This whole storm of the century thing has got me excited. The radio DJ says “we’re in for a whoopin.” It gives me an excuse to stay at home, which is where I’d be anyway on weekends, but I guess it’s comforting to know that this time, everyone else is staying home too.
I just came back from Michaels to stock up on candles in case the power goes. Note: I am a grown man of twenty three, capable of growing sideburns and a full moustache. So you can imagine that I wasn’t exactly overjoyed by the prospect of walking into Michaels for the sole purpose of purchasing scented candles. But it turns out they had quite the selection: Sparkling Pine, Buttercream, Apple Cinnamon, Cranberry Chutney… I found myself browsing the candle aisles for an unmasculine period of time. They come in all sorts of shapes and themes … Fall candles, Halloween candles, Christmas candles. I spent the better part of an hour sniffing candles. I think that there is such a thing as Candle Crazy. Full grown men of twenty three are not immune. Now I know why they have entire stores, like Yankee Candle, dedicated to candles. People get Candle Crazy!
You laugh but my room is now filled with the sweet aroma of Pumpernickel.
After Michaels, it was off to the book store to find something to read by candle light. I picked up “Sad Desk Salad,” a novel about the career of female celebrity gossip blogger. By God! It has just struck me now that the target audience of that book is almost exclusively women! And this after the candle shopping incident … I think I might be developing feminine tastes!
Excuse me as I do a few chin-ups, briefly check the sports section and practice loading my pump action.
Yeah so “Sad Desk Salad.” The title was what struck me. I know all about the sad desk salads working class women frequently subject themselves too. They’re especially tragic for middle-aged unmarried women. Or conspicuously unmarriageable women. Poor things. They’re so hopeful … eating their sad desk salads … I’ve had a few of those. It hurts even for single young men. Just who are we trying to stay fit for?
I myself have been single for twenty three years which, if you recall, is my precise age. But I think It could be worse. I could be single and fat. But I’m not fat, just single. That’s why I often go with the sad desk salad menu option. Stop laughing! Desk salads ought to have positive connotation. After all, if you’re eating salad, you’re staying healthy. And if you’re eating it at your desk, that means you have a career. Who cares if any of that sounds pathetic … The important thing is that I’m happy with who I am on the inside. Because … I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me!
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I’m saying goodbye to CDs, ipods, radio stations and all other traditional forms of listening to music.
I once considered myself a Music Pessimist. That is, I rarely enjoyed music. Listening to the radio became an exercise in eye rolling because “I Will Wait” by “Mumford and Sons” played on the radio eight times a day. Every day. That and the same Maroon 5 songs, “Some Nights” by (not so) “Fun” and all those Pink songs about being a tough rocker chick who doesn’t care what the world thinks, even though the world has to listen to what she thinks nearly every day in the top billboard charts, a million times over. It’s nauseating.
The record companies pay the radio stations to repetitively play shit so they can sell 6 million copies of Adel. I know this because I used to be a radio junkie. I’d scour the web, hoping to find a station that genuinely played variety. Through internet streaming, I tuned into dozens of radio stations all over the country: Houston, Chicago, L.A, New York, you name it, even stations in the U.K. I hoped to find The One, a station without mind-numbing repetition. But guess what? I’ve found that every station follows the same template. You can’t get true variety. It’s remarkable. ‘The One’ doesn’t exist, not here in Virginia, not in New York, not anywhere. Because to play music, the radio stations need to cater to the record companies, i.e. the people that actually own the music. And the record companies make money by selling 6 million copies of Adel every year. The best way to advertise Adel is to spam her singles on their network of puppet radio stations fifty times a day. So live DJs don’t even pick the songs anymore. Basically, it’s a fucking conspiracy.
And the only alternative to radio, really, is my ipod. But with that comes its own slew of chores: downloading the music (cha-ching), importing the music into itunes, pruning and organizing the library, transferring music to the ipod, backing up the itunes library, etc, etc. Then when my hard drive fails (usually about three times a year), I’d have to repeat the process all over again. I just don’t have time for that.
So I became a Music Pessimist.
I’ve concluded that ownership of thousands of songs in any format, digital or not, is completely impractical. That’s why I’ve decided to stream all of my music through a free service called “Spotify.” There’s no ownership involved, which removes a lot of the impracticalities. But although I don’t actually own the songs, the playlists and library that I create in my Spotify account will literally be saved forever. No need to back them up because I never downloaded the songs, it’s all streamed. In a way that provides something more permanent, more possessive than actual ownership. My library and playlists last forever, and I will always have access to them so long as I have access to the internet. But if I buy the CD, the odds are quite high that it will be scratched up and unusable within a year. Why pay for something you can’t keep when you can get it free and actually keep it? That’s my logic in now using Spotify for all my music needs. From my home computer, I can get the entire collected works of Bob Dylan instantly, on a whim, at the click of a button. And when I boot up my work computer: Bam, it’s all there. No file transfers. No downloading, all I need to do is sign into my spotify account using whatever (phone, computer, music player) from wherever.
Spotify gives me the ability to search for any song, any artist and instantly have access to titles… The quality of the music is better than radio and I can create my own radio stations based on preference within Spotify, sort of like Pandora sans the constant ads. And unlike Pandora, I can skip songs and play them as many times as I’d like. So it’s sort of a dream come true for me. Spotify. Try it out. In the digital age, the world needs a smarter way of listening to music.
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