Archive for May, 2008

Humor is Pissing Me Off

May 27, 2008

I don’t know what it is, but it seems like you can search and replace in wordpress humor with “stupid, petty, and mean political opinions.”

I avoid the political blogs (and news and real life people) for the single reason that it pisses me off. I can’t stand people who make decisions based on emotions. Who thinks any of this shit is funny, I guess you have to agree with the political point of view.

Then again, my kind of humor must piss people off, too. Sorry about that. I feel really bad now.

Guess what category I’ll be avoiding on wordpress for now on. It’s more like I’ll be whitelisting stuff or something. I don’t know. Where to get a good dose of humor? Not here.

Anger Spin Cycle

May 27, 2008

One of the main things that keeps me practicing Buddhism is anger. If I was not angry nor depressed, I’d probably think the entire thing was a waste of time. Actually, if I was not angry nor depressed, I’d be a very happy person lacking nothing.

I am angry and depressed for the same reason: the world is not exactly how I want it to be, and I don’t feel exactly the way I want to feel. That’s it. If the world changed and my feelings changed, it would be perfect.

For me, a big part of religion is accepting that not everything can change. This conficts with activism because to an activist this sounds like defeatism. I don’t think this has to be this way. The middle way between the two extremes is calmness within the activism. To work toward a better world, but to realize that the world may not change overnight. The world may not change at all. But to keep on plugging away, undiscouraged.

If I were unreligious, I could look for some kind of Pretty DistractionTM to stop me from thinking of whatever is makingĀ  me angry. But I feel that’s a retarded thing to do. I don’t know why, but i have always been against being sedated against thought. Perhaps because my mind is over active and I always over think everything. That’s what I do. I feel good about myself so I feel good about doing what I do. I hate the whole hippie or suburban or whatever bullshit tonic of “think of something else” which means, “don’t bother me with your problems.” To me, this is a reasonable response except when it comes from someone who says they love you like parents.

In Buddhism there is a mindfulness of feeling meditation. You don’t fuel the anger, but you do try to figure out what is causing it so you can tear out its roots. The big thing that helped me with this has been working on generosity. Who knew that a more generous feeling would mean less anger. But since it means giving up things that others are grasping for anyway, it takes the stress off me. Also, it turns out that I get everything I need without a big fight. Everything is actually working out.

So why the anger? I don’t know. Traffic was nice today. The weekend was nicer than usual. I was even able to get a good blank buzz on when I rode in today.

The problem was when I started to think of funny blog topics. Each time I thougth of something, I was too angry to the point where I thought it would mean I was hurting myself mentally by dwelling on the topics long enough to post. So I didn’t.

Posting about anger made me feel better, though. I hope you have a good day as well free of anger.

Matthew 5:13-22

May 23, 2008

Jesus is still talking from a mountain to people below. He just said a bunch of stuff about what rewards people will get with various affictions and wants such as “they which hunger and thirst after righteousness.”

Next, he talks about “the salt of the earth” which is a phrase I have always loved especially in a Rolling Stones song. I never knew what it meant. This line is kind of funny:

“Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savour wherewith shall it be salted?”

Good question. He goes on:

“it is good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

So here is a big difference between Buddhism and Christianity. Buddha wanted to save ALL sentient beings. He didn’t think of casting anyone out. In fact, in Buddha’s cosmology, there is no “out” to be cast. We are stuck in this universe for an eternity of suffering. In this regard, it is almost like the Buddhist universe is like a Christian hell. Hmmm.

Next Jesus talks of a city on a hill and candles. Basically all this means is that you should do good deeds; I think.

Finally he says that he has not come to “destroy the law”. This is a biggie because he is Jewish, and they have their Jewish law. Recall that John yelled at some Jewish factions in the past. Here comes some more Jewish infighting. But Jesus is not abolishing the Jewish religion. He has come to “fulfill it.” I don’t know what this means, but it’s the opposite of “destruction.”

Finally, he gets into details about the law. I like this a lot because he introduces the idea of the letter and the spirit of the law. The letter is what the law says while the spirit is the real reason the law is made. Often people who are Lawful Evil will follow all laws, but skirt around the edges kind of like an agressive accountant who tries to save some money on taxes. A Chaotic Evil person would not pay taxes at all. A Lawful Evil one will use all tax laws to try to reduce taxes such as getting residence in the Carribean. Jesus would suggest to stop mucking around and pulling your own weight. So I’m guessing he is Lawful Good.

He takes “thou shall not kill” which I did not know was a Jewish law since Jewish people have killed Romans. Anyway, he takes this law and adds to it saying, “whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgement.”

I really like this part. He is saying it’s not the kiling that matters, but also the mental state. This is similar to Buddhism where mental states are very much taken into account. This seems to be highly developed. However, there is a huge difference! That is where he gives the innocuous looking disclaimer “without just cause.” Why is this important? Because in Buddhism hostile anger (intent to kill like in this statement) is always to be avoided. In Jesus’ case, he gives an out so that it is possible to have “justified” anger. In Buddhism this is not so. The idea is to get rid of all hostile anger.

Why get rid of all anger? Because anger is a kind of suffering in Buddhism.

But, you may object, if I don’t get angry at people, they will walk over me. I’m not so sure about that. If you let people walk over you, they will regardless of your temper. However, you need to think of whether the anger is really necessary. Often people use anger as a kind of crutch for when they are otherwise scared. Anger is the only thing that makes them act. Ask yourself, do angry people make great decisions? Again, I guess it depends upon your attitude. If you have the attitude, I can’t be accountable when I am angry that’s up to you.

In Buddhism, you are allowed to strongly react to evil to stop it. You are not allowed to lose your temper to the point where you intend to harm someone. Buddha never sent people to hell, he just realized that they were all ready in a kind of hell of their own making and he wanted to help people get out. He never wished people would be cut down like trees, burned up like chaff, or cast out like salt that has “lost his savour”. I find these passages to be disturbing because I have heard them quoted by people who were clearly angry. In their minds, they have imagined that this has happened, that God is torturing people that they do not like. I do not find imagining the torture and suffering of other humans to be any part of spirituality that I am interested in. I believe it is incumbant for all good Christians to distance themselves from such language and thoughts. They should delete these passages in their own bibles. Otherwise, this will only lead to more agitation and suffering.

Matthew 5:1-12

May 22, 2008

I have to say that I looked ahead to Mark, and I realized that it’s basically the same story, but better written. It is much clearer to read. I think that Matthew should not be the first gospel. In fact, they should just not have it in here at all. Mark is better. However, I started reading Matthew so I’ll see this book to the bitter end.

In this next installment, Jesus goes up to the mountains, and he talks to some people. He tells them a bunch of things in this format:

If you have X shitty situation, you will get Y reward.

For example, “Blessed are the poor in spirt for theirs is the kindom of heaven.”

I take this not to mean that you should try to become poor in spirit in order to gain the kingdom of heaven. I think you’ll get it anyway, but I’m not sure. I’m assuming if your spirit is great, you can _still_ get the kingdom of heave. At least I hope so.

I think of this section as aiming at cheering people up. I don’t like to think that the idea is to promote poor spirits or anything.

I’d prefer this to be about how you can cheer yourself up right now. This where I started to have problems with this whole religion. When I was depressed (poor in spirit) I wanted to get better in spirit. I didn’t want to wait around for the “kingdom of heaven.” When I was depressed, I found it hard to believe this was even on its way.

Overall, this is one of the better sections. I just don’t see the connection between each X and Y.

On that makes sense is, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” OK.

But what about, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” I should be glad because I am meek. I wasted a lot of time trying not to be meek. Now, I’m getting a big promise to inherit the earth. I don’t know how to feel about this. I don’t _want_ the earth at this point. I mainly want to feel peace of mind.

Also, I can see people scheming to take over the earth by outdoing each other in meekness. I have just one question, “what is meek about using a megaphone or even a microphone?” I have a feeling that those LOUD preachers on Market Street will not inherit the earth.

Gas Price Relief

May 21, 2008

Today is a red letter day in the cycling community. Gasoline has topped four US$ today. It was over four dollars in some places before, but now it’s headline news, people.

In order to celebrate, this blog is going to give away a QUARTER GALLON of gas. In order to participate, you must promise to refrain from honking all day especially at cyclists. To collect the money, stop your car as you are driving by me AT A SAFE DISTANCE FROM MY BIKE. Roll down your window. Note, the next part is important: GREET ME IN A KIND VOICE WITH A NORMAL HUMAN GREETING. I know, most nice people I know, when behind the wheel of a car, suddenly morph into super-assholes and kind greetings to bicyclists is impossible. If you forget the greeting, you forgo the much needed petrol. Finally, just ask me, and I’ll give you a dollar.

How do I know you won’t honk all day? I trust you.

How do you know it is me? Just stop for all cyclists. Drivers seem to have no problem stopping for every tiny bump in the road so that their precious underside doesn’t get scratched. Why not stop for a cyclist or two and have a friendly conversation.

Remember, drivers of the world. Cyclists don’t hate you, they just don’t want you to kill them. They view you as a two year old…holding a handgun. Cute, silly, and totally fucking insanely dangerous with no clue of your awesome power.

Matthew 4:12-25

May 21, 2008

After the temptation, Jesus hears that John is in prison. So he goes to Capernaum. At first, I thought that Jesus was going to bust John out. Instead Jesus goes to all these different places to fulfill a bunch of prophesies. So why tell us about John? To me, this makes Jesus look bad. His friend John is in prison, and yet he is diddling around in other places. Why?

Next it says something about dark and light which seems to mean that Jesus’ preaching is light unto the dark. OK. In my version there seems to be a comma missing, but it does read better without the comma. “and to them that sat in the region and shadow of death [,] light is sprung up. I put the missing comma in brackets. I do like the phrase “shadow of death light is sprung”.

Jesus calls a bunch of fisherpersons to follow him. They do. Then he starts preaching everywhere “the gospel of the kingdom.” I am thinking that the Christian community had a lot of oral supporting ideas that were written down elsewhere or lost. The gospel of the kingdom is not yet articulated too much here. The author seems to think that the reader knows about this gospel.

Jesus becomes famous in Syria, which is a country I always wanted to visit. Damascas is one of the oldest occupied cities in the world.

Matthew 4:1-11

May 20, 2008

Here is another case where a single chapter contains more than one story. Again, I’ll split my posts to accomodate this oddity. With the way these chapters are split up so randomly, I’m wondering why have chapters at all? I guess it keeps the line numbers down to a reasonable size and makes it easier to put into blog posts.

Here the story continues. Recall last time, the Spirit of God came down “like a dove”. Now the spirit leads Jesus “up” into the wilderness. I am lost as to what “up” means. I thought it would mean up into the sky, but where is the wilderness coming in. I would normally think up means north due to the context, however, in the last chapter they spoke of the Spirit “descending.” At any rate, he gets to “wilderness” which is not further described. Note it says “wilderness” not desert. I always thought this meant desert, but it is not clear here so I won’t assume. It’s a kind of white room wilderness, I guess.

Here’s another case of redundancy. Jesus fasts for 40 days (and 40 nights). Then he is “an hungred.” (sic) Well, duh, if I fasted for forty days I’d be hungred (sic), too.

The devil tempts Jesus three times. The Spirit of God is OK with this. It says in the beginning of the chapter, he leads Jesus “to be tempted of the devil.” So this is God’s doing. Note the devil is lowercase. This implies that there are more than one devil and they are roughly interchangable. Again, I thought it was Satan with the capital “S”, but no, just a run of the mill devil.

The first temptation is for Jesus to turn bread into stones. Jesus demurs saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” I found that to be an odd reply since I didn’t think that making bread was such a bad thing. Then I realized that this is not just Jesus baking bread here. This is the Wilderness of Temptation. Therefore, the name of the game is to do the opposite of whatever the devil tells you regardless of whether it makes sense or not. This explains the Bush administration. They seem to be hell bent on doing the opposite of what Clinton did. Since Clinton was highly intelligent, it makes sense do to the opposite of this. Highly retarded things.

Next Jesus allows the devil to bring him to the pinnacle of a temple. There he is told to toss himself down so that the angels can save him. This is a no-brainer. Jesus wins this round. Two for two so far. However, Jesus’ reply was curious, “though shall not tempt the Lord thy God.” But I thought that Jesus was God. And in the beginning God brought him to be tempted. This makes no sense. Therefore, I conclude, logically Jesus is not God. Otherwise God would be tempting himself which is something he expressly prohibited.

Next round the devil shews (sic) all the kingdoms of the world. The devil offers them all to Jesus if he only worships the devil. Again, Jesus says, “no.”

Jesus wins. The devil leaves. The angels minister to Jesus. I wonder what “minister” means. I hope it means to give him food because he fasted for 40 days (and 40 nights).

My thoughts on this section are confused. The only real temptation seems to be the first one. The others are obviously no-brainers. I don’t why they are supposed to be tempting. Overall, however, I enjoyed this story. It was fun to read and interesting. I think that the devil is one of the most fun characters in the Bible. Every good story has a powerful villian someone who seems like they have everything going for them. The villian should have a good shot at completely humiliating the hero during the climax of the story. I hope we get there soon.

Constipation: Caused By Too Much Iran?

May 20, 2008

While waiting at stoplights and a car was going to turn, a friend of mine always had good advice for the person, “shit or get off the pot.”

I feel the same way about Iran. Two of our candidates are verbally constipated over the matter. Are they getting mocked for their lack of daily metamucil? No. The guy who says, “actually people, I’m not constipated. Maybe you should read up before that colonic.” He’s the one we are laughing at. Why? It makes sense.

Here’s another story. Once there were two guys going at it. Verbally. They kept telling one another how much they were going to hurt the other. One guy’s friend was holding the other guy back. My friend laughed at both of them. He calmly informed them that they were gay, but they didn’t know it yet. He went on to let them know that it was OK that they were gay, but they should really come out of the closet.

I feared for my friend’s life. He laughed again. “They weren’t going to fight,” he said. “If you wanna fight, you go up to someone and punch them in the face. No warning, no girly chit-chat. BAM! They won’t know what hit them.”

After that day, I never talked threatening to anyone again. I figured better to carry out the threat in advance. If you are not going to do that then back down BEFORE OPENING YOUR STUPID MOUTH.

Only Obama is doing this.

I don’t oppose the war with Iran. I don’t support the war. I know that I’m not allowed to have this opinion. Well, if you think that, screw you. I’m firm with resolve over my ambivalence. It’s not just iran. People are just so stupid because they don’t listen to any of my ideas, I’m pretty fed up with it all. In most cases we are basically arguing with Retarded Idea A vs. Retarded Idea B. Yawn.

If it were up to me, we’d call the politicians bluffs. War with Iran. Let’s do it now or otherwise, shut the fuck up about it all ready. I mean Hillary is a senator, she could sponsor a bill if she wanted war.

As the guvernator said, “Do it now!”

Jealousy: The Forbidden Emotion

May 19, 2008

Since I have started to read about Buddhism, I have begun to think about emotions a great deal. I not only think about what emotions I have at a given time, but also how the country I live in, the United States, views emotions.

I have found that while in Buddhism there are three poisons: ignorance, aversion, and greed; this is not so in the United States. Let’s take them one by one.

Ignorance is seen as OK in many situations. Hell, people have even used it as a defense for crimes even at the highest level of leadership. “I had no idea they were stealing money, torturing people, etc.” Even though it was my god damned job to know. Even if I was paid a lot of money because this is a huge ass responsibility, I didn’t know. No, I am not ashamed of this. It was an honest oversight. Now leave me alone so I can go back to my ranch.

I won’t say much about greed. Not only is it OK, but to not be greedy is seen as impossible. Therefore to express lack of greed in any way will really mean that you are lying. Lying about one’s feelings is bad. Lying about other things is usually OK, however, in the US at this time. In fact, in many cases it is expected. For example, people are OK that ads lie, and in fact at least one corporate spokesperson expressed that there was a constitutional right to lie. The US military also publically admits to a program that’s entire purpose is to lie. In fact, honesty is actually seen as a kind of weakness in modern times.
Finally, we get to aversion. This is also OK in modern times. This could mean anything one wants to get away from or anything that anyone does not like. It is seen as a kind of poor character if one is not aversive to nationals from countries that the US govt currently speaks badly of. For example, a few years ago, it was trendy to express aversion to anything from the region of Europe commonly known as France. In fact, France was so adversive that food items that were related to France only in a linguistic coincidence were renamed. The very sound of the word itself was seen as adversive. This was a reverasal of previous policy. This policy has been flip flopped, again, I believe. It is hard to keep up especially when one avoids the news. Avoiding the news is itself a type of aversion.

When I grew up in the 1980’s, it was considered to be good manners to express hatred and aversion to Russian. This was funny because my grandfather was Russian. Because I knew he was a good person, I realized that the entire custom of hating others was stupid. Therefore, I do not hate people from Iran which is currently the trendy place to hate. To most Americans, this shows poor character.

Jealousy is an interesting emotion because it seems to have dual roots. In one case, it is rooted in greed. In another it is rooted in hatred. In the US, jealousy is seen as shameful. Though it is OK to publically express some forms of hatred and greed, if you combine them together into jealousy, this emotion must be concealed to be socially correct. I find this to be strange. However, you need to realize that there is a strong belief in the US in economic karma. That is, whatever wealth people have, they deserve 100%. That is, the economy is completely perfect in translating one’s efforts into cash rewards. This belief only seems to be incredible because it is usually not articulated as such. It is usually assumed to be true. However, to speak of this belief at all is seen to be bad manners.

Although it is bad manners to feel jealousy and even worse manners to publically reveal this feeling, it is OK to notice this feeling in others. Often when people are criticized for theft, bad manners, violence, or ignorace, they will defend themselves by pointing out that their critics are experiencing a feeling of jealousy. Since this is such a taboo emotion, immediately all criticism is supposed to cease, and we are supposed to focus our attention on how terrible it is to experience jealousy.

In my practice to understand and deal with my emotions better, I will often express them freely. That is, if I am jealous, I will say, “I am jealous.”

However, often people have accused me of feeling jealous when I thought I was feeling justified outrage which is a form of aversion. I find this interesting that other people are so confident that they can determine my emotions even better than I can. I am not sure whether they are correct in these cases or not. I wonder if it is possible to feel an emotion and to not label it properly.

One final note, all the above poisons even the ones that are permissible in the US are considered to be a diseased state of mind in Buddhism. They are called kleshas or mental defilements. Much of Buddhist practice is working with these mental states in the hopes that they will weaken and subside.

Because it is not only seen as good manners but at times obligatory and in some cases inevitable to feel certain mental poisons, experienced Buddhists will be seen as having bad character in the United States.

Matthew 3

May 19, 2008

Now there’s a point of view change. We are given a short biography of John the Baptist. I really liked the part where he says, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Note that this was about two thousand years ago. So people who say this now especially those who write this on a sign that they then strap to themselves might have some contextural problems. I mean if we have been saying the same thing for two thousand years, what’s the rush now? Also, we need to think about what “kingdom of heaven” means. It seems like some kind of kingdom is coming. To me, this suggests either an invasion or a regime change of some kind.

Also of interest is that this one of the only times the author describes one of the main characters. John is described as wearing camel’s hair and a leather girdle around his loins. I though that girdle was something you used to keep your stomache in. I would not want one around my loins. I especially would not like leather down there. It does not say what kind of leather. I’m hoping pig because I heard that this is softer than cow. I am wondering if this is allowed. I am assuming John is Jewish. Is pig leather kosher to wear?

Next John goes baptizing people in the Jordan River. I would love to have been there for two reasons:

1. I always take any religious initation of any kind as long as there is no obligation on me. I figure it’s better to cover all bases in cases of the divine.

2. I always wanted to see the Middle East. I think swimming in the ME would be great especially as they had virtually no pollution in those days so the river was crystal clear. Nearby in the region, most of the oil in the world is underground, and they don’t know it. Since in God’s revelation, he did not reveal auto design, I can conclude he does not want us to drive.

The modern river Jordan runs next to modern day Israel, Syrian, and Jordan and it flows into the Dead Sea. I wonder how close John was to the Dead Sea because I heard it is a great place to learn to swim as you can float without effort there due to the high salt content. This salt content is rising because all three countries are draining the water before it gets to the Dead Sea. I predict if this goes on, the Dead Sea will not be a sea, but salt flats.

Back to John. He seemed to have baptized everyone even people he didn’t like. He did tell off the Pharisees and Sadducees while he was baptizing them. In fact, he gives them a long speach saying amoung other things that God can turn stones into “sons of Abraham”, Jews, I believe.

He says that trees that don’t bear fruit will be cut down. I believe this is important because it shows that in Christianity, there is a big sense of obligation. Contrast this to Taoism which speaks of the only tree that lives for a very long time is the one that is completely useless. So based on these quotes, out of context, in the East it’s better to be useless. In the West, it’s better to bear fruit. Or else. I prefer the East as I am a completely useless person.

Continuing to talk to the Pharisees and Sadducees, only, he tells them that the one who comes after John will baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire. Note, that he is only talking to these two groups not everyone. So people who say that God will baptize you with fire are mistaken unless you belong to one of the two above groups. I am not even Jewish so I don’t.

Note both Sadducess and Pharisees referred to leaders of Jewish groups that were around at the time. Sadducees are no more. The Pharisees have been re-established. Sadducees and Pharisees oppossed one another like Democrats and Republicans. Therefore, John did not agree that, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” He scorned both groups. There were other groups that John was not as upset about: the Essenes, the Zealots, and the Sicarii. The Essenes are cool because the name of a grocery store I go to is Essene and I wondered where that name came from. The Essenes didn’t waste their time with politics apparently. The Zealots and the Sicarii were revolutionary groups. They’d be seen as like the Weather Underground of the day.

To the two groups he does not like, John continues to say that He will gather wheat into his garner, but burn the chaff with “unquenchable” fire. This is interesting as people often think of chaff as sinners. I see it more as people who do not fulfill their obligations. In this chapter, John does not make these obligations clear. This is similar to the cutting down the barren tree analogy, however in this case, he says “unquenchable” fire. I am interested in the unquenchable part because if this is hell then that means it does not ever end. This is not the same as saying sinners sufferings are eternal, only that the torture chamber will live on. I would say that according to John, the suffering does not last forever since if we are burning chaff, we won’t burn forever. Actually, chaff burns up pretty fast which suggests a kind of quickie hell.

Finally, the chapter wraps up with Jesus going to John to be baptized. Note that Jesus was a baby in Chapter 2. Now he seems to be more of an adult. It does not say what age he is. So in this book what happened between infant and adult is not specified. To me, this suggests that:

1. There are chapters between two and three that are lost.

2. Matthew is not good with writing transitions.

Next, there’s a little back and forth between Jesus and John. John does not want to baptize Jesus because he does not feel worthy, while Jesus insists on it. So here’s a bit of humility on John’s part. When Jesus gets baptized things get interesting. “Jesus went up straightway out of the water”. I don’t get it. Is Jesus just walking out of the River Jordan or is he levitating?

“The heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the spirit of God decending like a dove.” This line has been highly misinterpreted. First of all, it says, “he saw” not “peopel saw”. This means that this is a vision that only Jesus could see. This does not mean that everyone saw God come out of the sky. Also, it says “like a dove.” So God is not coming _as_ a dove, this just shows how God is coming down. That is, he is flapping his wings as he decends.

“And lo a voice from heaven saying: This is my beloved Son in whom I am pleased.”

Here is is not clear who was hearing this voice. It is strangely worded because it does not say who is speaking. It is clearly not God because he’s not in heaven anymore. He had all ready decended (like a dove). So here are the questions:

1. Who’s talking?

2. Who can hear it?

In this case, I feel that at least one other person than Jesus should be able to hear this because if the voice was only talking to Jesus it would say: _You_ are my beloved son.

Finally, the author neglects to show a reaction shot of who heard this. This is a missed opportunity to show the impact of such a huge statement. Since there is no reaction, I have no idea how to feel about this. I am guessing that this is a good thing, but what does it mean to the people of the time?

Chapter three is definitely one of the better chapters so far. The action moved quickly. There was some conflict between John and some political groups. He spoke truth to power calling them out for being vipers. On second thought, John does not forgive them nor does he say that they will be forgiven. This is interesting because I was taught that baptism forgives all sins. I was also taught that anyone who asked for forgiveness would be forgiven. This is clearly not true according to John. If John thinks you are a viper, he’ll baptize you, but you still need to face The Holy Spirit and fire. I think that this implies that the rest off us, non-vipers do not have to face that guy and hot stuff.

This leads to one more brain teaser. Since John is not around anymore, how do we know if we are a viper or not?