what makes the savage?

On one of my other pages, I made my banner read the quote by Chief Dan George (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) that says what we don’t understand we fear, and what we fear we destroy.  This is so true.  If a bear stands up on his hind legs in front of you in the woods, he may just be saying “Don’t come closer!  My family is behind me.”  If you don’t understand his gesture, you might think he is attacking.  He might be communicating, but you might pull out a gun, kill him, and now his family has no papa bear because you destroyed him out of ignorant fear.

That’s just a bear example.  But, as people, we do this to each other all of the time.  Americans who don’t understand what it’s like to immigrate from Mexico and learn English make fun of Mexicans for their accents, poor English, and mock their customs.  Every single time a “New World” has been discovered, thousands of cultures – if not peoples – died for the sake of expelling the unknown.  Manifest Destiny operated at the heart of these cruel crusades to kill the savage in people and save the Christian, a mentality that I hope is an ancient, long-gone misinterpretation of “God’s will” so that I don’t have to live in fear of future Holocausts and genocides.  Sadly, I see how much hatred is expressed towards the Middle East.  That is to me confirmation that our “forward thinking” is still as backwards.

I strongly believe that morality comes from one thing and one thing only: Religion.  That doesn’t mean you have to be Christian to have morals, it just means that, if you’re Christian, you center your morals around the 10 Commandments and what your version of God tells you is right and wrong.  If you’re another world religion, it’s slightly different.  (But, in reality, I think all world religions are different versions of the same single belief, that their Commandments, etc., are just verbalized standards of how to live harmoniously, i.e. are common-sense, and yet tons of people are dying over vain dispute and have been for centuries.)  Religion can be just about anything, though.  It can mean you have certain values and you hold yourself to those values.  For example, many Native American religions or religious stories are based off of how the earth has created and continued to support man.  These peoples refuse to separate life from the health of the planet and they often view animals as spiritual beings of equal belonging.  I most certainly find my values aligned to these practices before I could ever agree with the controversial passages of Genesis which declare man as made “in the image of God” and as having “dominion over” all of the animals.  Talk about egocentric.

I find it ironic that “savage” i.e. indigenous cultures, who all live so closely to the land and are attuned to its pangs as modern society plagues it, are the only ones who have ever revered the land since Judaism took root in the Middle East.  Is it not common sense that the land comes before all?  I guess it’s not if you think the land was made by and in full control of its “creator”, but even indigenous peoples have come to acknowledge a “Creator” and refuse to sit back and watch some other being clean up messes for them.  Yadda yadda I can go on about a lot of things here, but I have one major point in writing tonight: HYPOCRISY.

When Pilgrims first came to the New World, they were all Puritan and devout and desperate and whatever.  They heard about this new place, and they were like, okay, cool, let’s hop on that…boat…and then months later they finally got there.  Well, some of them did.  Everyone else just died because of like scurvy or whatever.  Or, like, your neighbor got on the boat with tuberculosis, which no one knows until they’ve already left, and everyone’s like, “Really dude?  Rude.”  Anyway, now they’re all in Massachusetts and who really knows how the story went exactly but the gist is PROBABLY that the tribes who encountered the first settlers were respectful to them and helped them in exchange for respect back.  (And later empty promises ensued, and lies, and Constitutional rights revoked, and genocide,…but not today’s point!)

Long story short, Manifest Destiny was the reason for the attempted annihilation of any native person in America that white settlers could get their hands on.  Boarding schools, relocation, laws forbidding traditional dress or religious practices, punishment for speaking native languages, etc. – these were all techniques used.  Andrew Jackson, in fact, was a total bully who thought it was cool to set up a lot of the cultural stripping of natives, including stripping them of land and going back on promises that he probably never intended to keep.  So like Tuberculosis-Dude-on-the-Boat, Andrew Jackson was just rude.  He was exercising his rights and duties as a Christian which, by the way, included stripping these homelands to expand the cotton industry (and, thereby, African slavery as well – which was totally chill because they weren’t white Christians so God apparently didn’t care about them or whatever).  Oh, but wait, it’s not like Galatians 3:28 says this or anything: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Okay, it does say that – I guess it just means Jesus loves you even if another human owns you and doesn’t love you…and dudes, keep your hoes in line,…or whatever.

So when white immigrants were coming to America, they were like “Holy Toledo, these people are weird!!!  Look at their hair, their jewelry, their clothes, their swagger,…”  (UMM, HELLO???  That’s exactly what I say every time I look at my parents’ yearbooks!  Not to mention a history text… like, nice ‘fro, George Washington.  It’s whiter than my grandma’s doo.)  They were all flipping out because these people ate strange foods, lived in weird accommodations, and practiced strange traditions.  They were probably watching rain dances or some ceremony and scoffing, saying “You really think you have a say in that?”  They were comparing the lifestyles they had chosen to what they were observing and were completely convinced that these were modern heathen Canaanites., these strange (i.e. different) tribal people.  It never once occurred to them that they get down on their knees and talk to themselves every night and that maybe some cultures think THAT is weird.

Meanwhile, I bet the Pequot and whoever else at the time was checking out these FOBs and going “Oh, HELL no!  HAHA!”  I mean, do I even have to describe any of the past styles of clothing?  Men with their shoes, their hair, their hats, their restrictive and uncomfortable clothing?  Women with their bodies completely tied up, sometimes in corsets, with layers upon layers of clothes to render them even less useful in daily tasks?  Sure, they managed to make some massive boat (Do you want a high-5?), but then a lot of them died in the journey and now what are they gonna do?  (And imagine the first time a native saw a blonde or a ginger…Maybe it’s just a disease?  Maybe that’s why they’re so pale and avoid the sun?)

My  point: They’re different.  This creates a lack of understanding.  Not understanding things generates fear.  Well, the immigrants largely acted on that fear and took advantage of the different cultures they encountered in ruthless means – for the sake of Christianity.

Now, how do they feel entitled to do this?  I’ve already made my point that no one is more or less civilized than the other, they’re just held to different standards, different values, and different opinions on what is right and wrong.  This entitlement surely comes again from this Manifest Destiny where these Christian people are the “chosen ones”, but how in the world do their lifestyles affect their Christian-ness?  If a native person retains his native identity with the exception of his Christian practices, is he not a Christian?  Is it because he lives in the tribal, “backwards” state that he is considered a “heathen”?  This state which respects the land rather than destroys it because he has dominion over everything and so he’s allowed to (and God will fix it)?

Let’s not forget that the Bible – especially the Old Testament – is transfixed on tribal status.  I mean, TRANSFIXED.  There are books just dedicated to genealogy and delegating work based on tribal status.  The twelve tribes of Israel, anyone?  Oh, and how about burnt offerings?  I mean, seriously?  Dancing a ritual dance in thanks for a harvest is a heathen thing to do, but sacrificing “unblemished” goats every day is totally normal and okay?  It’s that very wastefulness, a mentality reflecting man’s “dominion” over other animals that was practiced widely in hunting the Colonies, which places “Christians” in the “heathen” category to those otherwise dubbed as “heathens”.

And finally, it was not that long ago that Europe was divided by tribes.  I’m very familiar with this considering my Celtic background.  Not only am I accustomed to tribal rituals in America, but I’ve also done Scottish Highland Dance since I was 8.  (We literally dance over swords as superstitious ritual.  And the Highland Fling?  It’s danced on one spot because soldiers danced on overturned shields in the marshes – another superstition before battle.)  I’ve been to more Highland Games than I can remember.  I’ve performed the Scottish fiddle, learned the penny whistle, and played the bagpipes in three different military bands.  When I come to the Games, I run off to the Celtic jewelry stands, buy Empire Biscuits, and see if my Clan (Douglas) tent is on-site.  I have designated tartans and a family crest.  My tribal peoples had their own dialect and ancestral lands with “pagan” traditions and monuments, many which came to embrace Christianity and Christian symbols.  (My Scottish family has its most ancient roots in the Presbyterian church.)

How is that any different than competing in dance at a Pow-Wow, representing the Potwatomi or Shawnee, buying beaded jewelry, and eating fry bread?  It’s not.  In fact, I love the similarities and I love recognizing the tribal roots of peoples all over the world.  So suck it, hypocrisy.  You’re ridiculous.  Boo, go home.

And with that…I’m going to end with an excerpt.  In 1995, Sr. Juanita, enrolled in the Mescalero Apache tribe, wrote this piece:

“My grandfather was captured by a band of Apaches near the Chihuahua area in Mexico when he was six years old.  They brought up my father according to Apache ways.  My mother is San Juan Pueblo.  I really consider myself a real New Mexican.  My grandmother was a Spaniard and I’m really proud of that fact because we have a little bit of all the cultures of New Mexico in our family.  The Spanish, Mexican, Pueblo, and Apache.  Now our younger members in the family are marrying non-Indians and when we get together, we are quite a nation.  It is lovely.  It is beautiful!”

Hashtag, BURN.

because, god.

Not you, but god.

God does these things.  You don’t.
Don’t ever think you do them.
He does.

Wowwww – how many times have I heard that?

I remember my friend’s 13th birthday party.  All anyone could say was “We are grateful god made you this way, we recognize that god gave you the strength to be the person you are, we are happy that god has chosen this path for you.  God gave you this, god allowed this to happen for you, god opened that door.”
Meanwhile, you have done nothing.  But let god guide you.  While you sat there.  And didn’t make those decisions to be the person you are, to actively choose good over bad, to work hard…

I remember talking to a friend about my “purpose” that I have chosen in life.  I was determined that I had found my “calling”.  “But what if it’s not a ‘calling’ but actually just god telling you to do that?  What if it’s just god’s purpose for you?  Maybe that’s why you’re here and you’re just fulfilling his duty, whether you know it or not.”
Meanwhile, I am just a puppet.  I haven’t been a good person on my own, god has just made me to be that way.  I’ve been seeking out these opportunities because it’s what he wants me to do, not because I myself have chosen that path…

Today, my hometown was shook up over a school stabbing.  One of the kids who was stabbed pulled a fire alarm to evacuate the school.  I was reading the comments and several people said something to the effect of “God used you well.  God will continue to use you well.”  and “god bless, god knows what he’s doing…”
Meanwhile, disregard all credibility to this kid because he had nothing to do with it.  He had no choice.  God used him as a puppet.  No need to remember this kid for his own choices, because god gave him no option and chose for him.

get it.  I swear I do.  I get why people believe god is doing everything and making all of the choices.  But I have a few major problems with the whole concept:
1. Obedience.
2. Omniscience and omnipotence.
3. Credibility.
Let me break it down for you…

 

Obedience
It was made very clear in the Book of Exodus that Moses did not want to listen to god’s direction for him.  He was basically all “Hell no, bro”, so god spoke directly to him and finally compromised by asking Moses to direct while Aaron, Moses’s brother, did all of the talking to the Hebrews.

What’s my point?
Moses had a choice.

Does that mean I have to actively hear god in my head and deny him to know that the choice is mine?  I don’t think that’s the case.  I think if there’s a god directing my life, I would probably know when I was obeying him – or at least feel like something extraordinary guided me.  Something more than adrenaline and pure survivalism.

 

 

Omniscience and Omnipotence
This was actually the first argument a friend of mine made against god.  She’s an atheist or agnostic of some sort who works in a scientific, logic-based field.  She could throw the whole concept out the window on there being a single god guiding all of us merely because, as she said it, “Like there’s really a god paying that much attention to every single person on earth!”

I have to admit, it’s a very compelling argument.

But, god.  God’s omniscience, omnipotent, and we can never expect to understand all of his ways.  (Remember my “catchall” argument from previous entries?)  Yet we were made in his image… but only his image?  I guess Eve didn’t touch the Tree of Knowledge in Genesis, so we weren’t able to understand how god works…  She had tastebuds for the Tree of Life instead.

 

Credibility
This is definitely the part that stings the most.  And the one that is so hard to argue about.  I could say it’s hard to see that a god is making my choices for me, and I could say that it’s hard to wrap my head around the capabilities of god…and any listening Christian or other would sympathize with my incompetence.  But for me to stand up and say “that’s not being fair”, that saying god told that boy to pull the fire alarm or that god is the reason I and my friend have made our good life choices as such is taking away what we have done, well they’d have a real problem with that.

Because god is the reason for everything.

Without the creator, I cannot be, and for me to take advantage of that, to take a stake in the claim, well that’s just absurdly inappropriate.  (Mmmk.  It reminds me of the same attitude that we don’t have to correct the world because god will.  We can just all wait for the second messiah, for god to intervene.  Right…)

 

I’m not saying one way is right over the other, but what I am saying is that I sympathize for anyone who feels like they’re achieving something and then feels crushed because someone else takes the credit away from them.  Maybe the credit does go to a god or gods or aliens or mind-controlling microbes, whatever… but the point of the matter is, we emphasize so much about how we need to make good choices and live our own lives that it seems a little hypocritical to throw into the mix “but, god…he’s why”.

Ya know??

continua and the familiar.

What is it with change that can be so scary? Or how time can so gradually alter our feelings or view of something that it no longer is or affects us like what it used to be?

I feel like our emotions are always so closely related to our survival instincts and that we have to remind ourselves of that occasionally. Fight or flight. Fear of the unknown. Being blindsided or not being able to fully grasp a situation causes our defensive instincts to kick in and startle us. Deep down, we are just animals trying to survive. But our complicated brains, hormones, overwhelming emotion…those can cloud our perception and cripple us.

Yesterday, I was thinking a lot about the universe. About being small again, and about changes and choosing better in my life. Those personal emotions are scary because they make me feel vulnerable yet grounded. That’s instinct. That’s my body fearing danger and susceptibility even when I’m sitting safely in a work tent, surrounded by friends, help, and the necessities.

But what about the universe? I also began thinking about what I am and where I come from. I thought about religion. I thought about how so many people answer my questions about life with “Well, God.”

But I think explaining a question about life with an answer of religion…well that’s answering a question with the same question.

Where does matter come from? What are quarks? Are they made of something? Is this an infinite loop of smaller elements?
Well, God.
But what is God? What is God made of? If he’s the answer to where matter came from, then what is his matter and where did that come from? Who made God?
Well, God. He’s God. He does whatever he wants, and he’s God.

I’m sorry, but that’s not an answer. Maybe God made this that and the other thing – but that’s answering my question with more questions. Celebrating God may keep him from destroying you, but using him as an answer for the origin of life and where the universe comes from… Well he would still be part of that universe, so I’m not buying it.

God is such a catch-all.

As humans, we hate the unknown. We seek solace in the familiar. We want to have answers for everything and, when we can’t find an answer, we turn to a god.

You’re single and sad. Well, embrace God’s choice for you.

The cancer is taking your mom. Well, it’s God’s choice and you have to trust him.

That huge storm that just killed a bunch of innocent, technology-less people? That’s not global warming, God’s just angry at us.

No, no, no. I don’t believe that at all.

I believe we have free choice, that using God as an excuse is turning a blind eye to our character flaws or how we are destroying the planet. Saying, it’s all good, Jesus will return and God will save us.

When we can’t explain something, we turn to God, to a familiar, to a continuum. Like with me trying to explain matter as being made of infinitesimally small pieces, or thinking maybe atoms are small universes and the cycle never ends… Picturing death or the end of the world… WE CANNOT PERCEIVE THOSE THINGS, so we transpose the familiar onto a continuum. Continua keep the answers we want comfortably within our knowledge and potentially within our control.

But they’re lies, making up reasons and putting faith in them. Denying our faults. And we refuse to learn from it.

This reminds me of the Book of Judges in the Old Testament. God seriously loves Israel and keeps showing the people grace despite their insubordinate behavior and continuous disobedience of his clear laws. They repeatedly turn to Baal and other gods despite his keeping them safe and alive and guiding them and warning them not to do just what they’re doing. His solution is to send a judge to the people.

Joshua has died and the people of Israel are without their strong leader, so they go astray and risk defeat by the Canaanites. God sends a judge to fill Joshua’s void. The people idolize the judge, win wars, celebrate their lord, and all is well. The judge lives his (or her) life out, dies, and it’s history repeating. This happens about twenty times and God keeps forgiving and trying again.

This story is thousands of years old, but we do the same thing to this day. We are inspired, like when America became patriotic after 9/11, and then we forget. Is it that the Israelites didn’t know danger? That God was always there for them? That they couldn’t see failure and knew, subconsciously, that he would be their catch-all and always save them?

The judges became a familiar and a continuum. God was the continuum of Israel. No one could picture defeat and they took advantage of it.

That’s like our excuses today, our passive concern. Because, without comfort of a familiar, we continuously revert to the next best safety net for our emotions. We can’t stand the vulnerability of change and the heaviness of responsibility.

Well, I think we all need to start owning up, on a personal as well as environmental scale. To start acknowledging our flaws, our faults, and our susceptibility to the uncontrollable unfamiliar. To realize the gravity of not having a safe continuum to rely on. To recognize the signs of history repeating, whether it’s in a personal relationship or on a large, international level of respect.

Out with the old, in with the instincts and the common sense. Let’s pull it together, folks.

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.

Inexplicable Comfort.

I know I started this blog years ago with an intention of bashing satire, but lately I feel like I have turned it into a documentation of my transformation.  I think the combination of busyness and that the emotions plugged into my original satire all equally provide the reason for the turn.  Writing about my “little thoughts” just comes so much more naturally than always sitting down to ruthlessly tear apart a topic or an attitude.  Sometimes, doing the latter almost makes me feel worse.  Writing about pure Kayla Faith just feels healing and therapeutic, like a journal that I throw up to the world and don’t care who sees me for who I am.

I’ve found comfort in this kind of writing as of late.  And, today, I noticed that I found comfort in places I never expected to find it, at times that didn’t seem to be supportive of it.

It started last night, really, when a long Saturday at work turned into a fun night in the snow and an invitation to spend the rest of the weekend with someone I care as much as humanly possible about.  Never in a million years would I expect such an invitation from someone so busy this past week and so low on spare time.

Today, despite a conversation that I had last night that tore me down a bit, I attended church as I have a few times now with said person.  I found so much comfort in going.  We always sit in the same place, I’m starting to recognize the same faces who always express their loves to see me, and I watched snow fall outside the whole time.  When I first attended, the music was my favorite part.  An actual band plays.  Now, it has become the application of scripture.  Perhaps that is because I have been reading the Bible to understand the preaching better.  And today, I had few qualms with what was being said.  I had memories of singing Gospel with my grandma, thinking she had the most beautiful voice in the world and that one must obtain such a voice by singing for God and that only,… so I suddenly began craving the scripture reflections and traditional hymns.  Furthermore, just the feeling of going to church makes me feel good.  I got up early in the morning, I went with someone I care a lot about, I supported his faith the way I like when people support what I care about, and I saw many kind – and now familiar – faces.  I’m not saying I believe things one way or another, but I’m just saying I have come to love those Sunday mornings.  I know he would say God is making me love them, but I don’t care what is – I’ll just keep going.

Comfort came to me again when we left and we drove through the snowy parks.  We ran up to Squire’s Castle, I in his work boots because silly me wore moccasins, and we just loved the snow.  Snow.  Snow.  Snow.  I love you, snow.  Snow is perhaps the silence that screams about peacefulness louder than anything else on Earth.

I always find comfort in fixing our meals, sneaking the dishes into the dishwater before he can yell at me for cleaning up, leaving notes and sending letters…  Sometimes I worry I look like I’m trying to hard when, really, I just can’t imagine not doing those things.  Maybe it’s actually selfish.  They make me feel good?  Because I make someone else feel good?  Maybe that comfort isn’t inexplicable, because my friend Rita already sat me down and explained to me years ago that I’m a “people-pleaser” like her.  It helped me understand why I feel so easily rejected and depressed when I don’t meet someone’s standards.  Regardless, I found comfort in doing those favors today.

I found comfort on the way home when I stopped at the store.  I usually avoid talking to people or making eye contact.  I always feel like some silly deer in the headlights.  People always come up to me and ask if I’m okay because I look frazzled or tired or stressed or like I’ve been crying… and that’s happened on my happy days, thus launching such days into self-conscious misery.  So I avoid it altogether.  But then I had the briefest of all conversations at the checkout counter with the grocer.  I recalled previous experiences at Whole Foods and nearly all of them include conversations at the checkout.  That never happens at normal stores.  Whole Foods definitely has a unique vibe, and suddenly I felt comfort that there are people out there who understand me but whom I have not yet met.  The world maybe isn’t as dark as I always think it is.

I found comfort in driving from the store to home and listening to my audiobooks.  I had previously finished Knowing Scripture, a book to accompany my reading A History of God while also reading the Bible (NKJV) cover to cover.  I actually really enjoyed that audiobook.  It was gentle, although set in its ways, and tried to express the importance of “literal” meaning.  What is literal meaning?  Taking something literally doesn’t mean word-for-word but instead the way it was intended to be taken, something that can be determined by its literary mechanisms.  Was that hyperbole?  What is that in the context of its time?  (Or, in the case of the Bible, things like What was the original word for this in its native language and how might it have been translated?)  I liked that, but then I listened to RIchard Dawkins.  I thought I would like this audiobook more, a much longer book which basically speaks against Scripture and is the opposite to the book I just finished.  Truth of the matter is this book is so damn arrogant, the claims so wildly inappropriate half of the time that I sympathize for any and all religious or semi-religious peoples.  Some moments, I agree full-heartedly.  Others, I’m appalled.  I think I was appalled maybe once or twice at some far-fetched concept in Knowing Scriptures and so I suddenly realized how arrogant the arguments sound.  Religious people often strive to be loved by and show love for their god(s), whereas atheists often display contempt for those loving people.  I’m not saying it’s either-or, but I suddenly felt comfort in places where I had previously felt uncomfortable: under the judgment of those who follow religion rather than those who follow proving it wrong.

At this point, I was home.  Expected mail was not in my inbox.  My place looks half-cleaned.  And I suddenly burst into tears in the kitchen.  I do that sometimes, maybe because I’m just confused about life.  About why I’m here, who I am, what I’m supposed to be doing, am I supposed to know these answers, are there no answers, where do I go from here, what is the point, etc. etc. etc.  Suddenly, from no where, I turn to the kitchen counter on my left and my cat Phantom is looking up at me, eagerly.  She has never jumped on my counter before.  She starts to nuzzle me, so I pick her up.  I have never cried into a cat so long before.  All she did was purr and respond to my scratching her ears until I set her down at the windowsill a good 10 minutes later.  Sometimes I’m convinced that people of our past are reincarnated into our pets, to somehow guide us.  Perhaps there is some god that oversees this.  Or perhaps I’m just crazy.  I don’t care, I still feel that way.  Just like I somehow know my grandma is there every time a ladybug refuses to leave my arm.  (And, yes, that exact experience has caused the only female on a construction site – me – to burst into tears in front of a slew of male drillers before.)

Finally, comfort came in the form of a text conversation.  One of my closest girlfriends from home texted me this evening, asking about the person I spent the day with (she saw a photo I posted of us hiking).  I briefly explained the situation.  I mean, she’s probably one of the better people to speak to about it.  She became incredibly passionate for my side that it made me feel, yet again, that inexplicable comfort.  Where did this come from?  She was so adamant to support me, being me, believing whatever I believe, no matter how it ever does or doesn’t change…  She was convinced that love is boundary-less, that it is foolish to throw out feelings over a difference that may not exist and that may only strengthen the diversity of something if it does…  Her argument made me feel sound and strengthened and not so hopeless.  She gave me courage after a day of mild confusion.  And, better than all else, she made me feel like my battle was not lost but just slow at being won.  It’s comforting knowing people so far away can care about you so much that they nearly lose their cool in expressing their support for you.

Ever since a conversation I had with a non-religious friend a few months ago, I have fully adopted his outlook on religion and faith: We are all religious, we just define our personally tailored religions in different ways.  This is, I think, completely true.  Even if you’re Christian, you likely interpret things a certain way, one in which others may not.  But what is wrong with that?  Follow the Scriptures all you want, but only certain ones were selected, they were all translated to varying degrees of accuracy, and who says they are set in stone?  (Okay, maybe the 10 commandments were originally but…)  With this in mind, I have no doubt that I am religious.  Religion is literally – there it is again! – defined as not just supporting a superhuman concept, but also following a set of beliefs with a certain upheld faith.  BOOM.  My beliefs may vary throughout the years, molded by whom I am near and what I have learned and seen, but I will have those beliefs nonetheless.  I’m adamant about adhering to certain ways of living and doing what is right, whether or not I’m convinced that right and wrong have to exist.

BOOM.  I am religious.  I always have been, but now more so than ever.  And I find it really odd, but I have been compelled to occasionally pray since I was about 8 years old.  Sometimes I pray because there is someone who asks for a prayer or who is struggling, so I pray for them and I pray to whomever their god is or gods are.  Sometimes I pray because I feel completely hopeless and what else should I do?  I always start off in my mind with “Dear God or gods or Mother Nature or whoever it is that I’m sorry I don’t know but who might have a say in this…”  I honestly hesitated to express in an entry that I am this way because I didn’t want people to regard me in a certain way, but then I decided why do I care?  I am who I am and I don’t know who I am but I’ll still be who I am whether I want to be me or not.

Seriously…my mind is such a freely flowing stream of randomness…but I just really felt like I had to record this moment, today, a day of highs and lows but of discovery and this odd sense of comfort in moments that felt so dreary.  Today, just when I felt like all was lost, I actually began to feel more hopeful.  Like, these are the tests we are going through to make us confident that this is actually everything we want.  We can handle this, because it is nothing.  There is so much compassion to be had and, like my friend told me today, love and respect are the center of it all.  And that’s there.  It will all be okay because that’s there, so I just need to focus on me, continuing to be growing, dynamic me, and this will work out because it’s meant to be this way.

Even if not everything has a purpose, as humans we always find it one.

The Meaning in Dreams.

ColorMeaningsInDreams

Growing up, my mom and my grandma would always ask me about my dreams. Whether they were good, bad, or just plain profound, I would tell them if something stood out to me the next day. There were days when my dreams were dictated by medication, including a series of horrifying nightmares I experienced during my few weeks in India when I switched to a different kind of malaria pill.

I was always amazed by how progressive my family seems to be, yet certain things stick in the mud like a stubborn twig. Things like my grandma’s insisting that owls are a sign of death, my dad yelling at me for speaking ill of my brother when I saw a raven, or the way my family dwells on dreams. I’ve always felt like dreams are just a subconscious moment of clear thinking, kind of like an innocent child creatively experiencing the world or like those moments when you can’t solve a math problem and walk away from it, only to solve it when you’re not thinking about it. But maybe there is something more to it? I do, after all, own an old, large book of palm reading, tarot cards, and dream interpretation.

I do listen to my thoughts and my dreams. I find myself convinced that it keeps me out of trouble, or even death. Like when I leave the house late and my mom says “It was for a reason; something would have happened if you were on time.” Well, once a drunk driver collided head-on going the wrong way down the Turnpike a few miles ahead of me. I think that really got me thinking from then on.

But dreams?

I know a lot of friends would reject my subconscious theory and rationale. They would say it is undoubtedly god speaking to us, showing us what he wants to see. I just have a hard time believing god really cares that much about the bajillions of people here that he sits with them every night and orchestrates their dreams within their respective time zones and sleeping schedules. Wouldn’t it be easier just to sit back and watch? I mean, most people probably forget their dreams anyway.

Last night I had an unusually frustrating dream. My family and I flew to London for a week. I had just gotten back from London (true story), but I was eager to go to the White Cliffs of Dover and also to the northern most point of Scotland. We sat around in this large, modern apartment, staring out at the glass windows for several days, not leaving, before I finally said something. My mom insisted it wasn’t a big deal, we could see London from the living room. I looked out and, sure enough, I could see the London Eye turning and Big Ben not far from that.

My brother was playing games on his computer. I’m not even sure what my dad was doing – if anything. Every time I tried to suggest leaving, they’d ignore me and say that my brother had stuff to get done. But then they’d let him keep playing games.

“Mom, let’s walk to the train station. I have London so well memorized around the Thames that I can get us to Dover in no time.” (true story)

“Okay, fine, we will get ready and go to Dover.”

I wait for a few hours and it is getting dark.

“Mom, if we don’t go now, it will be dark and we can’t see anything.”

“We can go tomorrow.”

“Then we can’t go to Scotland, too!”

“Calm down, it’s no big deal.”

“I didn’t pay for airfare to come to London for a week and sit inside this room!”

And we never went anywhere. It got dark, I could see the blue Eye, and I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t even run away.

I think I know what my dream was telling me.

First of all, my mom mentioned grandma talking about a trip to Australia. I was surprised yesterday that the flights are cheaper than the ones I’m buying to go back to West Africa in less than two months. That’s why I was dreaming about our family traveling. London was always on my mom’s list.

The apartment. I think that’s how I feel about a lot of people, that they’re just idling, watching the world through protective glass, never going outside of their comfort zones. Suffocating in their Bell Jars. Thinking this is as good as it gets, that text book pictures and stories come even close to representing the real thing. And that’s definitely not what it’s like.

The imprisonment. I think I feel imprisoned often by the restraints my parents have always placed on me, whether it is in my athletics or in my travels, whatever. They were shutting down my idea of going somewhere, doing something crazy. I always feel like, if I listened to them, I would be idle, I would be stuck living the same old, conventional, rural Pennsylvanian life. Maybe I want that, but not without leaving it first. They just never tried to leave it at all. And they try to lock me in their norms.

The computer. This is two-fold. One, I was surprised when my mom recently made the comment “I can’t believe you’re surviving without Wi-Fi”. I thought it was sarcastic. Since when did my mom rely on the Internet? She just got a laptop and an e-mail address not that long ago. It’s not like she ever needed it. I didn’t even know she understands half of what she tries to do on it. And, yes, work makes me dependent on Internet, but not like that. Two, this DEFINITELY reflected my attitude on my family’s treatment of me versus my brother. He is more important, he can do what he wants. I can only do what I want if I damn well do it myself. They’ll dish out the money for him to do something stupid and useless and which doesn’t help his career. Meanwhile I’m actually working and trying to live life. Give me a break.

So – let’s look at this two ways:

1. Subconscious, pure thoughts: Does this mean I truly feel this way? Or is this where the imagination part kicks in and starts making me dream up situations for self-pity? Could it be that my views from this dream are really what I’m facing in my daily life?

2. God’s thoughts in my head: If there’s a god putting these ideas there, what is he trying to tell me? I don’t see a way for me to appreciate anything from that dream, unless I’m supposed to appreciate being able to say “I’m in London” – I think not. Is he trying to make me realize the differences between me and my family? I have no idea.

But I enjoy dreams. They are stories I write without trying to write them, and look at all the symbolism I subconsciously conjure up!