love and heretics

It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness

“Right winged, Left winged” (insert insult here)

 

There have been a few studies done on how those who read fiction stories have more empathy.  It made me think about how bad discussions on the internet generally go.  How a difference of opinion so often quickly spirals into name calling and nasty ugliness. The existence of internet trolls, and how discussion boards seem to procreate them at unhealthy rates. And how easily non-trolls get converted to trolls after seemingly giving up in the fight against them.

So, I had to ask, what fosters this behavior? Why is it so easy to be so non-empathetic on the internet?

There are a lot of theories about that as well. One being that people can remain anonymous and therefore don’t have to be responsible for their actions. Another that we don’t have the face to face, facial expression, eye contact, vocal tone, cues to connect with. However, that second one would seem to contradict the studies on how just reading fiction stories can heighten empathy.  So perhaps it is possible to connect with each other without the face to face. I mean, if we can connect with fictional characters, why not online ones?  How do we stop the “other” vs “us” and begin to see that we must all fight together for humanity to continue?

This leads me to a hypothesis that sharing our stories, (our back stories), might be the key to fostering empathy and better communication online especially in discussions with people with differing and opposing viewpoints.

Sharing our stories gives a depth of realness to a person. And makes us a little vulnerable. Takes away some of the anonymity and lets us find connecting points with each other.  Points where we can connect are the seeds of empathy. The more points we can connect on, the more chances the seeds have, to bloom and grow.  The less clear the “other vs us” mentality can blossom.

In addition: Most posts I see on facebook and other discussion boards and social media outlets begin with, “leftists say this” or “Rightwing nuts think this…”. Generally, thoughts are being shared by stating what “the other side” thinks or believes, usually using pejoratives in some way.

So instead of asking, “does anyone really believe this?”, instead of asking questions and fostering discussions, most comments now begin with assumptions and usually misconceptions/over-exaggerating/misconstrued and twisted thought.

It seems the goal really isn’t honest open discussion anymore but rather how to get a thumbs up or pat on the back from one’s own side, by insulting the “others” .

If we continue down this road, reasoning, critical thinking, rational criticism of one’s own views are thrown out the window. Not to mention by making assumptions and jumping to conclusions we make rational discussion with others impossible.  What does this leave us with? Other vs Us mentality. So much easier to excuse, “by any means necessary” when we reach this spot.

So, I see two necessary steps to move further.

Examine how often we use, “the left, the right side” (or other less flattering terms) and instead begin to address posters by name, get back to individualism instead of grouping and assumptions.

Share more about who we are, learn about each other. Form a connection that fosters rational discourse. How did you get to where you are? What made you think this was the right way? Why do you lean this way? Asking questions is always a better path than assumptions. (if truth is a goal).

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Life Currency

In an episode of Sherlock Holmes; John’s wife, Mary, jumps in front of a bullet to save Sherlock.  She gave her own life to save his.  Holmes is overwhelmed by the gesture, as any of us would be.  Later, he expresses himself this way:

In saving my life, she conferred a value on it. It is a currency I do not know how to spend. ~Sherlock Holmes

It gave me pause. I considered how each time we interact with one another , help each other, serve one another, we are conferring value upon each others lives.  It also reminded me of a quote from The Corner of His Eye, (Dean Koontz).

“Not one day in anyone’s life is an uneventful day, no day without profound meaning, no matter how dull and boring it might seem, no matter whether you are a seamstress or a queen, a shoeshine boy, or a movie star, a renowned philosopher or a Down’s-syndrome child. Because in every day of your life, there are opportunities to perform little kindnesses for others, both by conscious acts of will and unconscious example. Each smallest act of kindness—even just words of hope when they are needed, the remembrance of a birthday, a compliment that engenders a smile—reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo, because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away. Likewise, each small meanness, each thoughtless expression of hatred, each envious and bitter act, regardless of how petty, can inspire others, and is therefore the seed that ultimately produces evil fruit, poisoning people whom you have never met and never will. All human lives are so profoundly and intricately entwined—those dead, those living, those generations yet to come—that the fate of all is the fate of each, and the hope of humanity rests in every heart and in every pair of hands. Therefore, after every failure, we are obliged to strive again for success, and when faced with the end of one thing, we must build something new and better in the ashes, just as from pain and grief, we must weave hope, for each of us is a thread critical to the strength—to the very survival of the human tapestry. Every hour in every life contains such often-unrecognized potential to affect the world that the great days and thrilling possibilities are combined always in this momentous day.”

Are you connected? Do you feel the currency exchange? It is but one act, one word away.

Slaying the monsters

 

Slaying the monsters

Ever see someone you love; turn into someone you don’t recognize? Exhibit monster like behavior that is upsetting? Our general response is to go on the defensive and attack back. And knowing them like we do, we know how to hurt them. We know exactly which buttons to push in our defensive strike.

But, does this slay the monster? Or make it bigger?

In an episode of “This is Us”, an endearing character named Jack deals with such a scenario with his young wife. She is pregnant with triplets, in full monster/exorcist mode.

Anyone who has been pregnant, or been with someone through a pregnancy knows this is an expected part of pregnancy.  Body changing, hormones ranging…monster fertile ground. In this state, she orders Jack out of the house, not realizing it’s his birthday. A common slip considering her primary focus is getting those babies out of her, and the only thing she can see right now is that none of her shoes fit, their house isn’t done, boxes everywhere that still need unpacked, and constant uncomfortableness in pretty much every part of her body. Not to mention not feeling “sexy” or desirable physically.

Jack, is driven away. He is hurt about his birthday, which is perfectly normal. He is tempted by his well-meaning friends to treat himself for his birthday, to a golf membership. They try to persuade him that he will need to get away from his wife, and all the complaints and whining of women, and going “golfing” was the perfect excuse for all the getaway moments he would need.

But in that moment, that crossroad in life, Jack realizes a couple of key things. He recognizes that his wife is carrying his future children, that she is making sacrifices to do so, for them both. He states that he doesn’t want to run away from her, he wants to be with her, he doesn’t want to miss a thing. Not ONE moment. And that he wants to freeze time and he even wishes to go slowly through this torturous time.  We, watching the show, get goosebumps with premonition knowing that Jack is not going to get to experience his children growing up, or grow old with his sweetheart. That life will be cut short prematurely for him.  Here we curse the writers for causing the tears to well up in our eyes and drip down our cheeks. Longing for the capturing of such realizations in our own lives. A friend or loved one to see past the monster times in us, for us, to see past the monster times in others. To value the time, we have, to see in perspective the fragileness of our lives and how little control we have over when it will all end.

But we do have some control. We have control about when some of it will end. We can walk away, shut down, close our eyes to the monsters. The monsters of stress, or hormonal surges, or uncontrollable pain, or impatience, of bottled emotions finally being released.  Or we can choose to jump back in the pit, and help take the monsters out.  Hard work? Certainly.  Sometimes sacrificial, and even painful as the monster nips at you and grabs a couple bites. But in the end, in facing the monsters we grow stronger, deeper bonds with those who are a part of our journey.

Each time we choose to close our eyes or run away from the monsters, the tree of our love, dies a little. Gets a little browner, each time, until it seems at some point there is no life left in it. But, love is not so easily destroyed. With a little nurturing, a little effort, the blooms come again. One small apology, one small reach for your loved one’s hand. One smile.  One kind word. Each is like a bit of sunshine cracking through the darkness, a bit of water after a drought. And the plant begins growing. A bloom can be seen. The tree of love. It is not just about a partner, but with parents, children, brothers, sisters, friends.

Our human connections. We get out what we put in. Just like the care of a plant. Sometimes however, there are things we cannot control. A sickness, mental health issues, hormonal issues. Physical pain and suffering. Stress from a job, or finances or life just piling up. Each of the above come in full force ready to devour the tree of love.  The release of nasty words, dirty looks, raised voices, things unmeant but bursting out. Altered by all the above filtering out any possible light or water the tree needs to survive.  Walk away and the plant is sure to die. Close your eyes and ignore, and the plant is sure to die.

But instead, take a step towards. Offer your hand, smile, speak kind words, and overlook the crap allows sunshine and necessary water to replenish the struggling plant.

Yes, it takes two to tango. But If one walks away, there is no tango. There is no possibility of anything but death to the plant. Easy enough. Close your eyes, close your ears, close your heart, seal it shut and walk away. Or fight for the life of the true. Fight to conquer how to get along with others, Slay your monsters. What will you choose? To bring life? Or allow death?

 

“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.”
Albert Camus

 

The Hairies: A cautionary tale

There once was a land full of Hairies. A people who were born covered in hair, from their head to their toes. The Hairies ruled the land and were quite suspicious of those born a little different. The baldies. The baldies had no hair upon them anywhere. They were the minority, being only a few.  The Hairies ,out of fear made rules. The baldies were not allowed to marry the Hairies, or reproduce. In fact the baldies were made to drink out of separate fountains, and eat at different tables. They were in fact, second class citizens. They could not get good jobs, and worked for a lot less when they were hired.

But a few Hairies arose, and began to see the treatments of the baldies as unfair and unjust. They couldn’t help being born without hair. It was not their fault. It was not anything they had done. And so, war began. Those who wanted freedom and equality for the baldies, and those who liked oppressing the baldies and feeling good about their superiority.

A tale of injustice heard many times before. And like every other case, eventually the baldies got justice. New laws were made after much blood was spilled, after stands were made, beautiful speeches given, inspiring rallies shouted at, and those who stood on the line, fighting for the rights of the baldies. Equality! Freedom! Hooray! Baldies could now be free to live just like the Hairies. Only something strange happened. When the baldies began to live like the Hairies, they began to make new laws. There was Baldy night out, and baldy only after parties. A new show which featured only the Baldies.  Baldy only tables, baldy special fountains.  Instead of now having equal rights the baldies demanded the same special rights that the Hairies were once formerly privileged to.  They began looking down upon the Hairies, much in the same way the Hairies once looked down upon them.

And so, the Baldies who once were the oppressed, became the oppressors. The beginning of a new era, or rather an old one recycled.

““The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors,” Paulo Freire

The troubles…

goodnight moon,I just finished watching Haven, A scifi series based off of Steven King’s The Colorado Kid.

In it, a town is troubled with “troubles”.  The troubles are supernatural curses that affect the townspeople in a hereditary way. Meaning a specific trouble affects a particular family.The “trouble” usually shows up after a stressful or emotional  occurrence. Like  a death, loss, money problems, divorce, anger, strife, fear, envy, etc.

The troubles were supernatural abilities, like every-time a baby cries someone far or near dies. A person who caused weather phenomena like hurricanes and tornadoes and lightning to strike. A person who couldn’t feel anyone’s touch, or feel anything at all. A person who tortured anyone they touched with excruciating pain. A person that could shape shift. A person who turned invisible and couldn’t reappear or be heard or felt. A person  who drew bullets to their body like a magnet. And as many more as one could possibly imagine.

The story centers on a few people who work tirelessly to solve the ‘troubles’.  They work with the afflicted to help them with conflict resolution, and resolving their emotional struggles which seems to help stop the trouble.

My thought after the conclusion, is that in reality we are all affected by troubles that aren’t so supernatural. When crises occurs, emotional trauma, strife….we are affected and end up affecting others. We push away the ones we love, anger outbursts, drinking , drugs, depression/shutting down, silent treatments, abandonment, acting out, and more. We destroy each other and ourselves with no supernatural help needed.

We need more people working with our afflictions, helping resolve conflict and emotional struggles to help combat our “troubles’.

Ratiocination: an experiment

If you like discussion without personal attacks, this is the place for you. If you consider yourself personally attacked when an idea you hold to be true is questioned or even attacked, (the idea mind you) then this is NOT the place for you. Would love to see more discussion from those willing to participate! No taboo topics. One rule: no personal attacks. A new group on facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/ratiocination/?pnref=story

This group has been created for a specific type of group discussion. It will be limited to those who have agreed to commit to attempting to separate emotion from the issues being discussed. The goals will be to argue about an issue from multiple angles and to strengthen each angle into the best possible argument, (whether it is agreed or disagreed with by individuals or the group). It involves a willingness to attempt to suspend preconceived beliefs and biases while weighing out all sides of the issues. The goal does not include ones of normal debate. It is not to win, or persuade.

“Ecologist Paul Ehrlich stressed that people who hold opposing opinions need to engage in open discussion with well-reasoned dissent. Positions should be questioned and criticized, not the people who hold them. Personal attacks preclude open discussion because, once someone is put on the defensive, fruitful exchanges are impossible, at least for the moment.” ― Marc Bekoff

As such, personal attacks have no place here and will not be tolerated. There are plenty of other groups for that.

 

Life is pain

life-is-pain

Seems a bit pessimistic perhaps? But most life I have seen, encountered, or read about at the very least includes pain.

Ran into a quote this morning. It said, “Life is very sweet, brother; who would want to die?” ~George Borrow

Both quotes seem extreme. Life seems to be a collaboration of the good , the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. But for the second one. How innocent, how naive to only see the sweet.

All I could think is this is a person who has never lifted the cup of suffering. A person who has never walked with someone who has unending, unstoppable pain. Never walked with someone who has asked for a bullet to the head, when asked what you can do for them…

I was taught that there is purpose in suffering. That pain strengthens us, molds us, purifies us. I no longer believe that to be always true. We try to find meaning in everything that happens, and perhaps it is a coping method for many in handling why bad things happen. Pain can also twist someone, cause them to be cruel, make them beg for death, and destroy them. Platitudes are nice, but they just don’t fit everyone. Some of us are more easily inspired than others. And to some, they can feel like a slap in the face.

If you know someone in pain, more often then not, they don’t need to hear “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” when sometimes what doesn’t kill just tries again harder the next day…. just be there for them.

Sometimes we can’t stop the rain, we can’t make the sun shine, we can’t control what life brings. But we can walk with someone through their pain and suffering. We can lift what burdens we are able, and if nothing else…hold their hand through the storm and let them know, they are not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Prove to me there is no god…

A recent request at a forum. Can anyone prove to me there is no creator god?

I would begin with the objections to the existence of god acknowledged by Thomas Aquinas :the problem of evil, and the apparent ability of natural science to explain everything in our experience without God. Both would fall under absence of evidence.
However, I will concede that absence of evidence is not in and of itself evidence of absence for the following reason. A god could choose to appear absent. In such a case his existence would be entirely indistinguishable from his non-existence. And in such a case proof would be impossible.

 
In some circumstances it can be safely assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. In such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of its occurrence as positive proof of its non-occurrence.”— Copi, Introduction to Logic (1953), p. 95

The value of opposition

 

“One hallmark of intellectual honesty is the solicitation of opposing points of view.”  ~Tom Clancy

“Unless we are gagged and blindfolded by preconceived ideas, all worthwhile encounters change us in some important way.”~Athol Dickson

“If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe? The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions. ~Author Unknown

“He who cannot put his thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of dispute.”
―Friedrich Nietzsche

“You must be able to say “I understand,” before you can say “I agree,” or “I disagree,” or “I suspend judgment.”  ― Mortimer J. Adler

“It is only through dialogue, deep listening, and passionate disagreement that we find our way to something larger than a singular and isolated point of view.”
―Henry Kimsey-House

“If I do not agree with something or do not like something, it will be wrong to presume that I hate it. Presuming disagreement or dislike to be the same as hatred is stifling engagement. Disengagement leads to otherness, which leads to fear, which in turn leads to real hatred. Either we tolerate disagreement and dislike or we have to tolerate real hatred. The intolerance of disagreement is filling civil society lexicon with phobias each of which is leading to a disconnect, to another closed door. It may sound odd but only tolerance of disagreement demolishes walls. Doors and windows, open or closed, presume that there exists a wall, a wall created by intolerance. And doors and windows, if they exist, are closed too easily, at the slightest of pretexts.”
― R. N. Prasher

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” -Harper Lee

“One must dig deeply into opposing points of view in order to know whether your own position remains defensible. Iron sharpens iron. ” -Francis Collins

 

 

Atheist dogma?

 

Some of the most common accusations against atheists seem to be about assumed dogma. The truth is, I haven’t yet found a list of beliefs an atheist adheres to.  The only requirement is unbelief. Specifically unbelief in a god or gods. Beyond that one linking requirement you will find atheists all over the spectrum on any given topic.

Is science atheist dogma? No.   Science is not a dogma. It is a process. As an atheist I do not claim to have the answers to all things. Especially things that at this time we can not know. What I can say is that using science we are able to recognize Best Answers with the information we have at any given time fully recognizing  that our Best Answers are subject to influence of new information and knowledge. 

I find this far more satisfactory than any dogma.

Forgiven after death…..

Ran into this quote today :

I wish to use my last hours of ease and strength in telling the strange story of my experience.

I have never fully unbosomed myself to any human being; I have never been encouraged to trust much in the sympathy of my fellow-men.

But we have all a chance of meeting with some pity, some tenderness, some charity, when we are dead: it is the living only who cannot be forgiven —

the living only from whom men’s indulgence and reverence are held off, like the rain by the hard east wind.

While the heart beats, bruise it — it is your only opportunity; while the eye can still turn towards you with moist, timid entreaty, freeze it with an icy unanswering gaze;

while the ear, that delicate messenger to the inmost sanctuary of the soul, can still take in the tones of kindness, put it off with hard civility, or sneering compliment, or envious affectation of indifference;

while the creative brain can still throb with the sense of injustice, with the yearning for brotherly recognition

— make haste — oppress it with your ill-considered judgements, your trivial comparisons, your careless misrepresentations.

George Elliot ( Mary Ann Evans) ~The Lifted Veil (1859)

 

How quick we are to let hate, pride, jealousy, anger, judgement,  unforgiveness go….after death.

And instead remember fondly the one who passed…

Alas,  that we could adjust ourselves before it was too late…

More by her:

“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.”

“I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved. I am not sure that you are of the same kind. But the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. This is the world of light and speech, and I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.”

::sigh::

Atheist ponderings on the soul

What is a soul?

psyche (n.) 1640s, “animating spirit,” from Latin psyche, from Greek psykhe “the soul, mind, spirit; breath; life, one’s life, the invisible animating principle or entity which occupies and directs the physical body; understanding” (personified as Psykhe, the beloved of Eros), akin to psykhein “to blow, cool,” from PIE root *bhes- “to blow, to breathe” (source also of Sanskrit bhas-), “Probably imitative” [Watkins].
Also in ancient Greek, “departed soul, spirit, ghost,” and often represented symbolically as a butterfly or moth. The word had extensive sense development in Platonic philosophy and Jewish-influenced theological writing of St. Paul (compare spirit (n.)). Meaning “human soul” is from 1650s. In English, psychological sense “mind,” is attested by 1910. From here: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=psyche

The butterfly has long been a symbol to represent transformation.

Some have taken this in a physical form literally as we see the butterfly do.

Some transform their physical selves. (think Bruce Jenner).

In ancient Greek, and in religion since I believe the transformation was thought to mean from one life to the next. An after life, the spirit separate from the body.

But, I am here to give an explanation of the term soul to a lowly atheist.

An afterlife is not believed IN as it is not known, or believed to be knowable at this point. So, what could soul mean?

I like the symbol of butterfly connected with soul. Because it is hard to explain.

Some like to accuse atheist of being materialists, and seeing only the physical.

And while some may be, that certainly does not describe every atheist.
I like to think of soul as our rare ability to think, reason, feel, reflect, and transform. Not physically, not into another life, but in this very life.

We have discovered that self transformation IS possible. In fact it is one of the unique attributes of being human. The soul is the part of us that is capable of self transformation, in the here and now. Discovery of who we are, who we want to be, and becoming. Less or more.

Sometimes our transformation can be dark, less instead of more.

To quote The Mad Hatter: “You’re not the same as you were before. You were much more… “muchier.” You’ve lost your “muchness.”

Finding our soul, and our desire is being human.

answers from an atheist

t and v 077

“What, if anything, is sacred to you?”

When music says what words cannot

promises kept

a bird that flies after a mended wing,

gravity

a scar that no longer causes pain

hope

waterfalls and rainbows

friendship

silence when words won’t help

courage

An apple hanging from a tree

humor

the light from a single candle

compassion

the sounds of a stream or ocean

kindness

the smell of peculating coffee

sacrifice

a great story

love

*the laughter of a child

and of course…

a hug

*Thank you archaeopteryx1

Of octopus and morality

octopus

Just a few more pondering thoughts on morality….

If a human lived on an island with no other living being, there would be no need for the existence of morality.
It exists because there was a need for it. Where does morality come from? Our thoughts of right and wrong?

I tend to wonder what an octopus life would be like if they lived longer…long enough to pass on their learning to their offspring..If they didn’t start off life as orphans making it on their own. For humans, much of what we decide to be right and wrong is learned, as children, many are decided as we grow up. Some animals spend their entire short lives learning simple basics like cooperation is a quicker way to get things done. We have the ability to tell stories, write things down, make songs, and learn from our success and failures and pass this down to our children. Our long lives give us even more wisdom from experience to pass down. Each new population isn’t forced to relearn skills like cooperation vs isolation, and principles like the golden rule vs looking out for number one and how and why they are a benefit.  It’s cool to be human.

For a free smile: one of my favorite shorts…

:( 2

oldest form of wireless communication

:(

starving child

This blood is for you….

It is coming on that time of year again…..

love and heretics

This blood is for you….

Most of my life, I embraced the story…the “gospel” of Jesus.  I upheld my hands, as tears streamed down my face as I thought of what he had done ….for me.  All my sin, my failures, my stain upon this world…my inadequacies, my darkness…

All of it…taken upon by one who knew no sin.  An innocent, perfection embodied….god in man….

Willing to die….for me….worthless failure…lump of clay….squashed beyond all recognition….

and yet this god man…loved me…cared enough to poor out his lifeblood, and die…for me. To take away all that darkness….

Justification…..’just as if i had no sin”….purified…cleansed…in the blood.

How could I not weep? not love this god-man…? willing to give his very life…for me?

how could I not give my own life…bought by his blood…back to him? Was I not his now? all to jesus…I surrender…All to him i freely give..
“I will…

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The Doughnut

The doughnut

There is a doughnut that all can see.
Chocolate icing we all agree
deep fried , round, shaped like a ring
but the hole, now that’s another thing.

Unseeable to the naked eye,
give your inner eye a try
all one must do is believe
the hole is there don’t be naive

Invisible, untouchable, and yet they know
what fills the opening makes one whole
Hallelujah, praises be,
we once were blind but now we see.

Some see only the deep fried dough.
It’s good, yes, but no Van-Gogh
Prove its there? well, try a bite
we won’t tell. It’s all right.

Ah, the ring, its not enough?
Can’t enjoy it without invisible stuff?
well, by the stars that’s rough!~
Maybe add a cream puff?

The Jews are coming – The Ten Commandments

“Do you know, the only people I can have a conversation with are the Jews? At least when they quote scripture at you they are not merely repeating something some priest has babbled in their ear. They have the great merit of disagreeing with nearly everything I say. In fact, they disagree with almost everything they say themselves. And most importantly, they don’t think that shouting strengthens their argument.”
Iain Pears,

without further ado:

Dear Atheist, Your Faith Is Greater Than Mine

Dear Oliver,
I think perhaps your misconceptions of atheism have allowed you to write such error. Atheist do not have faith in things they cannot see. They are just willing to admit when they do not know. They also allow room for multiple possibilities, and use science, rational and critical thinking to place things on a probability scale. No faith necessary. Also, you may want to stop the lumping/clumping of atheist and realize that they do not all believe/think the same. The only thing that they can be lumped into agreeing upon is that they do not see evidence to warrant a faith/belief in any god/s.

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