riding the earth.

from Earth MovementsTohono O’odham poetry translated

She said she felt the earth move again.
I never knew whether she meant she felt a tremor
or whether it was the rotation of the earth.
I like to think she felt the rotation, because
anyone can feel a tremor.

And when she felt this
she could see herself
standing on the earth’s surface.
Her thick, wide feet solidly planted,
toes digging in.
Her visualization so strong
she almost feels her body arch
against the centrifugal force of the rotation.
She sees herself with her long hair floating,
floating in the atmosphere of stardust.
She rides her planet the way a child rides a toy.
Her company is the boy who takes the sun on its daily journey
and the man in the moon smiles as she passes by.

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figs

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 7

shiny things.

I’m always amazed by the kinds of things I remember.  Most of the time, I can’t remember the big picture – I just remember one thing that stuck in my mind.

I don’t remember reading Aesop’s Fables the whole way through with grandma, but I remember the Crow and the Fox and Swiss Cheese falling out of a tree.

I can’t remember what we were doing one day when my family walked down the Pump Station lane, but I remember a single Indian Paintbrush growing in the grass.

I remember leaving a ring on the bathroom sink somewhere in Texas, crying because I was six, and going back with mom to find someone had taken it.

I remember reading about Kaya, the Nez Perce American Girl, putting moss in her moccasins; I took a walk to the alfalfa field behind my house, stuffed my moccasins, and laid down in the field at the start of a storm because the start of rain is one of my favorite feelings.

But I’m always amazed how I can read a whole section of a textbook, an entire story, even a research paper – and only remember a silly, fun fact.  Sometimes, only a few sentences out of hundreds stick in my mind.

I still remember Stacey is the brother’s name in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, but I read the book when I was 10 and completely forget what it was about.

I remember the cover of The Giver, and of A Wrinkle in Time, and I completely forget the stories.

I remember the pictures I pained in my head of the Trolls’ cave door when Gandalf opened it, but I hardly remember the story.

I remember the moment Ned sees the one-eyed cat in the book One-Eyed Cat, and that’s all I remember.

I remember My Side of the Mountain and how badly I wanted to live with hawks or in a tree.

I can see the stallions and geldings in my head from the countless Marguerite Henry horse books, stories of Chincoteague wild horses, and other equestrian classics that I would sit under the library skylights and read during free hours in Mr. J’s library.

Okay, enough reminiscing…

The story that stands out time and time again, after all these years, I finally realize is a lesson.  I never saw it as a lesson.  At the time, I was 11, I thought this story was about how stupid raccoons are.  Instead, it’s about how stupid people can be.

The story part I remember is from the book Where the Red Ferns Grow.  That is probably the first time in my life I can remember my entire class at Valley crying together: Mrs. Koza, the assistant Mrs. Dempsey, and all 20 or so of us 5th graders, boys and girls, crying equally.  I forget who was the first one to cry, but it was like flood gates opening.  In fact, it might have been Mrs. Koza reading the part out loud when…well, I won’t give that away.  That’s near the end, when we learn where the red fern grows.

The only parts I remember of the story is the end, the section when I learned what “entrails” are and cried because of how I learned it, and the raccoon.

The boy in the story comes across a trap in the woods.  It’s a log with holes drilled in it.  Some cruel trapper put a shiny object inside, drove nails around the holes, and left it be.  It was to catch raccoons – they would want the object, then not let go to get their hands out even if the hunter was coming along to club them to death.

I thought it was about how raccoons like shiny things and are dumb.  And that’s a little true.  But it’s more about how cruel humans are, and how fickle animals and people alike can be.  How shiny things blind us.  In some ways, the passage is talking about the idea of “sin”.

So you can imagine how a 5th grader latched on to that scene playing in her head, of a raccoon struggling in a log for a cheap, worthless, shiny scrap, maybe starving for some time, and a silly hunter coming along, clubbing it, throwing out the mess and keeping the tail or the skin or something foolish, and letting it happen all over again.

Hunting for weaknesses.

Do you have shiny weaknesses in your life?

welfare and deloria.

I have always had a problem accepting that a day is only 24 hours long, and that my body legitimate needs to sleep a fair portion of those hours away.  I just don’t understand how one can seriously fit the utmost rewarding days in those many hours.  I wake up early to get a workout in for my own health, but I’m also expected to work an 8 hour work day and find time for meals the middle.  However, I hate being cooped up inside and I don’t like fast food, so I find myself craving to be outside as soon as I get home – and spending extra time getting adequate meals.  I also have a number of activities I enjoy doing like dance and sports and even just going to the beach or trying out a new place in town.  Well, how can I do all of these things and still find time to read books and write and draw and…play with my cats?  I’m thinking about starting a petition to make the days longer.

All of those things fall under the definition of welfare.  Welfare includes health, safety, happiness, and prosperity.  I looked up the definition when I finally got a minute to continue reading Custer Died for Your Sins by Vine Deloria, Jr.  He’s a humorous and rather crude writer who, in this particular chapter, takes time to blame Pilgrim society for our welfare problems and stereotypes.  Welfare, as in the government program.  And I got to thinking, wow – I can’t imagine what I would be doing with my time if I didn’t work…except, just kidding.  First of all, I’d be constantly looking for work.  Second, I never have nothing to do.  There’s always something!  Always a book to read, a movie to watch, or inspiration to draw or run or…yeah, you get the point.

But then Deloria makes a somewhat convicting point.  I definitely do think of people on welfare as being sloths.  I know I shouldn’t generalize, but when I think of welfare I just think of people trying to take advantage of the system and live reckless lives at others’ expenses.  I’m just going to share a couple paragraphs by Vine:

 

          There is basically nothing real about our economic system.  It is neither good nor bad, but neutral.  Only when we place connotations on it and use it to manipulate people does it become a thing in itself.
Our welfare system demonstrates better than anything else the means to which uncritical white economics can be used.  We have all types of welfare programs: old age, disability, aid to dependent children, orphanages, and unemployment.  There is continual controversy in the halls of Congress, state legislatures, and city halls over the welfare programs.
Conservatives insist that those receiving welfare are lazy and are getting a free ride at the expense of hard-working citizens.  Liberals insist that all citizens have a basic right to life and that it is the government’s responsibility to provide for those unable to provide for themselves.
What are we really saying?
Welfare is based upon the norm set up by the Puritans long ago.  A man is define as a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, healthy, ambitious, earnest, and honest, a man whom the Lord smiles upon by increasing the fruits of his labor.  Welfare is designed to compensate people insofar as they deviate from that norm.  Insofar as a woman has an illegitimate child, she receives compensation.  Insofar as a man is disabled, he receives compensation.  Insofar as a person is too old to work, he receives compensation.
Welfare buys that portion of a person which does not match the stereotype of the real man.  Welfare payments are never sufficient, never adequate.  This is because each person bears some relation to the norm and in proportion to their resemblance, they receive less.

 

After reading this section, it struck me that old Christian ideals are really what we use to define “welfare”.  Even the government is giving handouts based on those same ideals and expectations.  Since these ideals and our democratic society define welfare and happiness, etc., as being able to afford a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear,…  We’re expected to fit into roles and family molds, so when a piece is broken and it doesn’t quite fit anymore, the government tries to patch it up.  We’re not really given a choice on how to live.  (Maybe the one exception to that is the guy that quit ordinary life to live in a cave in Moab, but I think even he has since been shut down by some loophole the government devised.)  And it’s not surprise to me that Vine is particularly aggressive against this concept of welfare.  I mean, he’s a Sioux writer and avidly denounces any and every remnant of American efforts for Indian assimilation and termination of the reservations.  He wrote this book at the end of the Termination Era and during the Civil Rights movement for blacks, so I’d say his candidness is highly justifiable.

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A famous quote by Vine Deloria, Jr.

That candidness is what causes me to love Deloria and what causes others (especially close-minded whites) to really hate him.  He has a knack for conviction and also for pounding accusatory points home.  When the points he make align with your beliefs or the ones you get from reading what he writes, then you can hardly refrain from putting your hands up and shouting

PREACH!  th (yes, that did just happen)

But he also has a tendency to totally call you out on things, like my outlook on welfare apparently aligning with a conservative mindset and his shedding light on my subconscious acceptance of the Christian perspective of welfare and success.

Ahh…and I’ve feel like I’ve done it yet again.  I tend to do this to myself, to branch out and read convicting things that sort of knock me flat and question everything I’ve come to know.  Then that leaves me trying to sort out what’s the right way to go.  I’ve already had a sense that “ordinary” life is contrived, and I’m sure that contributes to my running around like a fool trying to live it to its best and fullest, but now…now I can question my efforts all over again, from a refreshed base.  Which won’t be as hard to do if I can convince this Puritan government to accept my petition and tack on a few more hours to this ancient 24-hour-day concept.

do everything better.

I’d heard a lot about Shauna Niequist’s book, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way.  When I tried to reserve it and had to wait weeks on OhioLink, I figured there must really be something good about it.  And it certainly proved to have a lot of simple, selfless moments of realization.  It got me thinking about how I perceive myself, amongst many other things in life.

Reading Shauna’s book, I could feel a lot of similar internal struggle buried under the obvious fact that I am not the girly, frilly, fashion-obsessed, hair-dying lady that Shauna is externally.  In some ways, this realization made me try to compare myself to her more and more as I read – the kind of comparison she accused herself of throughout the book and strove to avoid.  But, despite the moments when I felt so underachieved (I always want to DO BETTER), there were certainly a plethora more when something seemed to stream from my thoughts rather than my reading and I wanted to flip to the cover of the book and make sure I wasn’t actually the author…

I used to think that the ability to turn back time would be the greatest possible gift, so that I could undo all the things I wish I hadn’t done.  But grace is an even better gift, because it allows me to do more than just erase; it allows me to become more than I was when I did those things.  It’s forgiveness without forgetting, which is much sweeter than amnesia.

I can remember all of those times when I actually had a perfect moment and I wanted to be absorbed by it.  I would be so blinded by what was that I would forget to live in what is and instead would dream that what will could be as perfect as what has been.  It’s been hard, but I’ve been practicing taking rejection, failure, and discomfort and dwelling on them in a positive way, one that doesn’t change who I am but which opens me to my fullest capacity.  DO BETTER, but on the inside.  That doesn’t always show on the outside.

These years will pass much more quickly than you think they will.  You will go to lots of weddings, and my advice, of course, is to dance your pants off at every single one… Time will pass, and all of a sudden, things will begin to feel a little more serious.  You won’t be old, of course.  But you will want to have some things figured out, and the most important things only get figured out if you dive into them now.

And this is why I like reading and talking to people that have been there.  Why try to figure things out for yourself?  You’re given the luck to not be in the earth’s first generation of humans.  Shauna may not be “old”, just “older”, but still – there’s a reason why the elders are the respected, wise group in traditional communities.  If you want to be better, DO BETTER, you go to them.

For a while in my early twenties I felt like I woke up a different person every day, and was constantly confused about which one, if any, was the real me.  Isn’t that the truth.  Every year, you will trade a little of your perfect skin and your ability to look great without exercising for wisdom and peace and groundedness, and every year the trade will be worth it.  I promise.  Which is good to hear.  Because aren’t we so often concerned with the former and not appreciative of the latter?  Not just in ourselves but in other people as well?  What is really the goal in life?  For whom are you living it?

Now is your time.  Become, believe, try… Don’t spend time with people who make you feel like less than you are.  Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned.  Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.

So how to capture that inspiration?  How to admit what I should be doing?  I would expect Shauna’s advice to be action, but in fact it’s an act of passiveness that she suggests: Admit what you don’t do.  Because spinning your wheels only buries yourself deeper when you keep trying harder to go faster and do better.

I tended to get so tired I’d cry without knowing why, why my life sometimes felt like I was running on a hamster wheel, and why I searched the faces of calmer, more grounded women for a secret they all knew that I didn’t.  (AMEN!)

This is how I got to that fragmented, brittle, lonely place: DO EVERYTHING BETTER…a super-charged triple threat, capturing in three words the mania of modern life, the anti-spirit, anti-spiritual, soul-shriveling garbage that infects and compromises our lives…

Deciding what I wanted wasn’t that hard.  But deciding what I’m willing to give up is like yoga for…that nasty little person inside of you who exists only for what people think.

So, I who loves lists as much as Shauna will now make a new one… Despite what I WANT to do, despite what I WANT to be, here are the things that I, right now, just am NOT, some things I don’t do:

—I don’t have organization.  Disorganization stresses me out, and I have OCD tendencies, but knowing I will fail when I try to keep clean and organized just makes me feel crushed before I even start.  So, thanks, mom for suggesting it’s a reflection of an “artistic” mind.  I’ll just keep being this artsy, I guess…

—I don’t accessorize well.  It’s a lot of work.  I don’t change out my earrings, rings, and necklaces as much as I wish because I just find it a waste of time.

—I don’t keep up with fashion.  It’s just not who I am or in my interests, and I especially don’t support the direction the fashion industry is going these days.  Low-cut shirt?  No thanks.  And I prefer that my underwear stays under my clothes..  Also, my mentality is stuck in circa 1962.  And I like having it there.

—I don’t keep up with TV or movies.  It’s not important to me who an actor is or what he ate for breakfast.  I would rather read a book, stretch my mind, and go for a run.

—I don’t know how to make mixed drinks.  I have the book, the equipment, the desire, but I have neither the guests to entertain nor the money to buy the ingredients needed to mix the amazing concoctions of my dreams.

—I don’t make good rice.  I did once in my life.  It was in error, I’m sure.  I’ll make a mile-high meringue, cordon bleu that I won’t eat, hand-kneaded bread, asparagus with hollandaise, an awesome pie crust from scratch… but I will over-salt, under-water, not set the timer and completely burn every last grain of rice…then neglect to scrape the mess off for days.  And the sad part is I really like rice.

—I don’t wash my dishes in a timely manner (see above).

—I don’t get my nails done.  I hate my toes (despite hating socks and shoes as well) and I just cannot for the life of me justify manicures.  They’re expensive, they actually look really dumb, and an athletic girl simply cannot keep paint on her fingers.  Plus, I just fiddle with them and pick the paint off.

—I don’t fix my hair.  I want my hair to be nice every day, but, like my lack of willpower to organize, I give up before I start.  It’s just so daunting.

—I don’t even know how to do makeup.  I try, but I usually put on patches of bronzer or blush and give up.

—I don’t go to clubs.  And I don’t intend on starting.

These are kind of silly and maybe just make me seem lazy, but I guess that’s the point.  And seeing the things I am NOT reminds me of the things that I AM, which I like.  I’m NOT go-with-the-crowd, jump-on-the-bandwagon.  I’d rather make a riot and go against something just to know that I didn’t go along with everyone else.  I like my independence.  I kind of like NOT DOING.

So, instead of doing everything better, I think I’ll start not doing more often.

Heaven is for Real.

hifr

I remember going to the store to look for one thing and always seeing this bright, yellow, silly-looking book jumping out at me: Heaven in for Real by Todd Burpo.  It was actually on one of my long, hidden lists of books I wanted to read.  I only wanted to read it because I knew of people who were wanting to read it as well, and I wanted to know what everyone was raving (both positively and negatively) about so much.  I finally grabbed one of several copies from the library and found myself done with the thin book in no time.

First, I’ll explain the premise in brief: a dad sits down to write this book with an author after a few years of hearing his small son tell stories about heaven.  Little Colton became incredibly ill and, according to the book, was a miracle of survival.  Over time, he starts revealing more and more about an out-of-body experience, telling bits about heaven that sound like scripture he wouldn’t have been able to know by 3 yet told in the way a child tells things he doesn’t quite understand but has seen (“rainbows” to explain the jewels all over the kingdom, “red markers” on Jesus’s hands which would be his wounds, etc.).

When I first starting reading this book, all I did was scoff at it.  It seemed so stupid to me.  The book was mostly about the dad and his family’s financial struggles and connection with his church.  Every time Colton revealed something he had seen, I just dismissed them with things like “well it took him 2 years to say it” or “his dad is a preacher, he could have heard that from anywhere” or “maybe he just wants attention” or “maybe this dad is a total phony” or “his dad prompted him to answer the correct way” or “how convenient, that he didn’t write down the names of the kids Colton had met in heaven”………..

I’ll admit, I still have my doubts.  But there was one point during the book when some switch just flipped inside of me.  Things started to feel a little weird to me when Colton became very strongly expressive about Jesus and how Jesus just loves everyone.  I kind felt this melting feeling and began to realize I have never doubted Jesus’s existence or that he made sacrifices for what he believed in, I only doubted who is actually is/was.  To hear that someone so tied to worldly martyrdom would still be worshipping the innocence of children (which I value highly, too), it made me feel even better about standing up for goodness.  In that moment, I decided I really love Jesus, whether he is the son of a god or if he’s just a guy.  He is, if nothing else, a perfect role model, isn’t he?  With Colton’s description, I formed a very comforting image of Jesus in my head.

Then Colton starts talking about his dad’s grandpa.  I was a little dumbfounded when Colton seemed to legitimately recall his long-dead ancestor and even more impressed when Colton only recognized pictures of the man when he was in his prime.  He claims that, in Heaven, “no one is old and no one wears glasses” which is a cute kiddie way of saying we are in the best of health.  Yet I was still bouncing it back and forth, the idea that Colton could have overheard his dad talking, that he could have somehow imagined everything,… except for the visual recognition part, if that really happened as it was told.

But it gets weirder.  Colton’s mother had had a miscarriage, yet Colton hadn’t been told.  Sure, he could have overheard about “losing the baby” or something.  But for him to come out and say he met his sister in heaven that he didn’t know he had, and to describe him as looking like his mother unlike the other children who are like their father – those things just seemed to real to me.  I find it hard to believe that a young child could process those kinds of concepts unless he had some incredible dream that streamed those thoughts together with no assistance other than his own intelligence.

Yet the moment that I suddenly found doubt in everything I had come to believe came when Colton began identifying problems with paintings of Jesus.  The day then came when Colton was shown one image, one that I have since looked up and which looks exactly like I had pictured in my mind what Jesus is like since Colton’s description… Colton, for the first time in years, found nothing wrong with the painting and said that it was “right”.  Little did he supposedly know that the painting was made by young Akiane who claims to have had a similar experience, seeing visions of heaven.  I was like, what?

(Enter: Mixed feelings.  Feelings that there can’t not be heaven mixed with feelings that maybe this is all a scam.  But how can such a young girl paint so well?  Were her parents really atheists?  So much confusion…)

Regardless of what all of this really means to me, the book made something very clear to me: You can love Jesus and be religious and be “Christian” without being Christian at all.  That’s not saying that there isn’t one singular answer about the existence of a god and that you shouldn’t accept a god that controls your life and is the reason why life exists, it’s more like I began to see the family-ness of religion.  Too often it gets a bad rap and people who aren’t religious like to pin evilness to those who are because those people stand up for their beliefs.  Reading this book made me realize that religion is not meant to shut people out or hurt them, it’s more like fulfilling a duty to a god and to each other.  It’s using “community” as a vehicle for discovery, self-improvement, reflection – with or without religion being the inspiration.

I suddenly realized that all of those people who ever tried to help me follow my grandma’s footsteps or who feared for a non-Christian in my family or who wanted to “spread the word” were really, the whole time, doing nothing but trying to help.  I’ve seen enough non-Christians react to this help to know that they see it as sabotage, unaccepting, backwards, closed-minded…but, in reality, I think there is some hypocrisy in that interpretation.  This book made me realize that people who whole-heartedly believe in something feel like that they have the key to all the doors you need to open and here they are trying to hand you those keys.  It’s like they know something already that you don’t know but they’re helping lead you to it.  It’s not such an evil thing after all, if done kindly.

So, although I’m still not 100% sure where I stand with the book, I did order a used copy of it to keep as a reminder of how it made me think – and I want now to spend a moment on the mixed reviews I have read regarding Heaven is for Real.  These reviews are seriously split down the middle, between adamant Christians celebrating how god has touched the family and the son and aggressive atheists denouncing Todd Burpo and calling the whole thing a scam.  Well, isn’t it only pleasing when we hear only what we choose to hear?

To the Christians in love with the book, I wonder if they ever raise any doubts?  To the atheists who detest it, do they seriously read it with nothing but cold-hearted conviction?  It would be like a Christian reading an atheist book, insulting its ignorance while the atheists revels in its accuracy.  That’s why I prefer to sift through everything and, regardless of spiritual context, take away some sort of meaning that I can use to better myself.

For all of the people who complained about the Burpo family being like the Flanders family in the Simpsons, well how is that such a bad thing?  I don’t think it is at all.  A little funny and strange that people could be so happy all the time, but I wish the world was full of more Flanders.  There were also complaints about the author being the same author as Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue and how it was like Palin, too bubbly and sugar-coating or ignoring the bad stuff.  Again, what is so wrong with that?  (Although, I have to say I disagree with Burpo when he says, on page 84, that you might as well tell God what you’re thinking since he already knows what you’re thinking [when you’re angry, for example].  Yes, but what about filtering it to show him your control and respect?  That passage stuck out oddly to me…)

Regardless, I think the point of the book is something I can really agree with: that a child is innocent and pure due to “lack of guile” (74).  That’s why Colton’s Jesus loves the children, why Colton is so idolized in the story for his unfiltered thoughts, why this telling of heaven is so powerful – because it is meant to be pure visions retold by a guileless human.  So, if nothing else, that and my new appreciation for the concern of others is what I will take away from this book – and perhaps much more.

Actually Opening One’s Mind to Religion.

The idea of ever calling myself a certain “religion” type always gave me fear.  I too easily pictured “cults”.  I pictured these organized “cults” and then I remembered all of the negative history in the world that occurs under God’s “will”.  I’ve been trying to understand lately what it really is all about though, these pro- and anti-religious peoples vetting against one another.  I’m trying to see for myself what they’re about rather than spitting out words other people feed to me.

I got two books from the library: Knowing Scripture by R. C. Sproul, a tiny book that discusses what Scripture is really for, how to interpret it, and how people are spoiling it – and also The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  I thought, “Sproul will be so dry… but Dawkins should be pretty interesting, I think.”  That’s because his book was long and confident-looking.

Well, I have completed both books and I was completely wrong.

Reviews on GoodReads have, for the most part, coincided with my sentiments quite exactly.  Whilst Dawkins seems to give a much more modern and forceful view on religion, he does it in such a righteous, arrogant baby fit that I came to hate it more and more and more with each chapter.  It was also mind-numbing repetitious, dispelling numerous tests and experiments (which were highly interesting, but I don’t think possible to put scientific control on).  One such experiment supposedly proved that praying for an individual didn’t help them get better but, if anything, made them worse.  Well, okay, because they’re at a hospital so obviously ill, you ask them to be in an experiment, and it is likely that the more people who pray for them the sicker they are – and they know it.  Regardless, it was the style that got me the most.

Another thing that deeply disturbed me was the way Dawkins seemed to make so many radical claims, all the while demonstrating his lack of understanding religion.  I used to be like that.  When I tried opening my mind, I became less so.  After finishing some of my latest readings, however, I have gained an entirely new perspective for devout Christians and why they preach the things they preach and act the ways they do.  Dawkins clearly either hasn’t reached this point of understanding, or he denies it or just completely shuts it out.  On any conflicting issue, you have to meet in the middle before you can make a solid assessment.  I hate how he comes in from the flank and doesn’t take a moment to understand the people he is bashing, especially after I just finished the other book.

The other book, Knowing Scripture, helped me understand the “literary” and “literal” tidbits of the Bible.  I believe Sproul is the kind of man who would acknowledge that certain words have been mistranslated.  I really like his approach to how to read Scripture and the way he emphasizes the lessons taken from them as being the most important – which I agree.  Too much of the Bible is outdated, especially in the Old Testament.  Furthermore, I really enjoyed his section about people “tailoring” religion.  He calls them “sensual” Christians.  You can’t pick and choose the rules you think apply.  You have to pick a method of interpreting God’s word, and then you have to constantly apply that method regardless of the outcome.  You can’t by wishy-washy – and I’ve always felt that way about religion.  He calls these kinds of people “sensual” because he sees them as looking for that instant satisfaction of this generation.  He argues that this is the kind of difference that exists between love and lust – one desirable, one like a plague.

Comparing these two books just made me realize how many people might feel the same way about something, but they shut each other down if they don’t get to the same conclusions by walking the same paths.  In the end, what does it matter how you get there?  If you arrive at the same place, how you get there is just what personally defines you and makes you as unique as the mind you used to think yourself there.  I like to think that I have managed to open my mind pretty wide to be accepting and to form my own, non-intrusive opinions.  Sure, they might come off as forceful here time to time, but I’m never actually that way in conversation.

Then again, maybe my views are the reason why I’ve identified as UU the past couple of years.