Archive for August, 2008

Goodbye 2008

August 28, 2008

I’m going to take a looong trip like horse and buggy style. I’m going to stay away from electronic devices, but especially the internet and most especially this blog.

 

So it won’t be until 2009 at the earliest that I return.

 

In the past, I talked about how I was OK to leave this city. That has not changed.

 

However, I’m glad I was able to see some of the beauty one more time. I was looking for ass cream that sounds like Camomile Butter to me but without the ‘e’ kind of like some made up SF languages that always slightly annoy me.

 

On my walk, I went over the crumbling South Street bridge and saw the lovely skyline. That was nice. For a long time, when going over bridges, I’d keep my eyes on the trees below all those big buildings. It has been a while since I enjoyed the skyline.

 

I also checked out the Anthropolgy museum’s exterior. It was like I was seeing everything for the first time. Though the first time over the South Street bridge, I spent a lot of time looking at people’s bottles, wondering if they could be cleaned to use for bottling homebrew. We just tossed out the homebrew kit as well as nearly everything else we ever owned. Lots of work. It’ll feel more liberating after we get out of the house, I think.

 

Goodbye 2008.

Take me to your (dorm) leader

August 27, 2008

I have been trying to resolve an illegal and fraudulent dorm repair charges dispute for several weeks now.

My parents have taken out a second mortgage so I can attend this prestigious university, and I am simply appalled at the lax state your complaints department is run. The dorm department isn’t really about helping people with their dorms it is about stalling, obfuscation, and outright lying.

After a series of emails that went in circles for weeks on end, I asked for the phone number of the dorm director (or should I say mis-director?) department because the response I was getting was sub-par at best. In fact, I would say it was limp and impotent. That is to say, I don’t think you can get it up let alone help me with damages disputes.

It is now several weeks later. I am back from my summer voice lesson trip in Vienna, and I still have nothing on my blackberry!

Please provide me with the name and director of campus dorms. If the treatment I have been receiving from the dorm department continues, I’ll be glad to relay my story to a dissimilar crowd.

Matthew 7:21

August 22, 2008

This line says that only people who do God’s will are going to heaven. This is interesting because there are people who preach that doing good will NOT get you into heaven. You must be saved. Just whip out Matthew 7:21 in this case. It even says not everyone who calls me “Lord, Lord” will get into heaven. So thus people who are supposedly “saved” might not get in.

Why do I care? Mainly because of facial expressions. I feel that a smug look on someone’s face, a smarmy look of superiority is the easiest way to piss me off. I don’t know why. People who are “saved” often come on like this as if they know something I don’t. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But don’t be smug about it because if you do then there’s one thing _I_ know that you don’t. Facial expression manners.

Plus, I hate doctrinal disputes that hinge on one word taken out of context. Plus, I think that religion loses one of it’s best attributes when this whole saved business comes up. Religion can, in some cases, compel people to act better to one another. If you are saved, you can treat anyone like shit and still go to heaven. This explains some really bad behavior, I think.

In fact, I feel it is strange, but I have noticed that the people who profess atheism seem to have some of the strongest value systems. They have clear ideas about corruption and why you shouldn’t participate. They have an investment in the human race and this planet.

Again, I don’t know why.

Matthew 7:16-20

August 21, 2008

This is more of along the lines “by his [a person but mainly a preacher] fruits you will know him”.

Yesterday, I said that I liked this. That is true, but only up to a point. I feel that often the real world is more complicated than can be split into two dualities. That being said, I do have a strong sense of right and wrong.

I am uncomfortable, though about the punishments that are going to go to “those who produce no fruit”. They will be cut down.

That sounds cruel to me. Worst, it reduces the value of human life to what they can produce. But this is a self-centered view. On one hand, one can think someone (like me) is a complete slacker and completely useless. Fit to be cut down. On the other hand, there is love enough for everyone in the world.

Also, as this book stated earlier, it’s not up to us to judge. Therefore, this is a potentially dangerous line because it may be taken out of context and used to judge others. For example, it may be used to blame people for their poverty. After all, if they are not a “corrupt” tree, then they would have good fruit, right?

On the other hand, I like it because it tosses out the fuzzy notion of intention which I’m not completely comfortable with. People always claim they have good intentions no matter what a mess they make. Here, we just look at the fruits. If the plan was so great, why are the results so bad? On the other hand, factors are out of our control, so maybe good intentions and a good plan can still fail.

So basically, I am highly confused. Probably from typing too much.

The one thing we can agree to is that it’s not up to us to judge.

Judging creates stress and hostility and neither of these make for a good day.

Matthew 7:15

August 20, 2008

This one says that you should beware of false prophets. I think that this is excellent advice. It goes on to suggest that you know a false prophet by their fruits. Again, great.

On the other hand, this makes me want to know how Christ’s own life turns out. Does he become a king of a wonderful land? Does he finally defeat his inner demons and live a life of calm and of peace? Does he discover some fantastic techniques that we can use to improve our lives?

I don’t know. I haven’t gotten to the end of this book. So basically the point of this is a teaser and foreshadowing on, “How is this going to turn out.” I can’t wait. I’ll probably never get to the end, though, if I keep writing a few paragraphs for each line.

Matthew 7:13-14

August 19, 2008

I this next couplet. I don’t agree with it, but I think it sums up a great deal regarding Christianity.

Again, it brings up another duality. In this case, the duality is regarding life. Wide is the gate the leads to destruction and narrow is the gate that leads to life. OK.

In Buddhism this kind of thinking is called annihilism (destruction) vs. eternalism (life). Buddha did not preach either of these. Thus if asked if one’s soul is eternal, he’d say no. If asked if one were completely destroyed after death, he’d say no. This seems like a paradox, but I don’t think it is. I think that things are more subtle.

I know analogies don’t prove anything, but I think that they can be a good way to explain certain notions. In this case, one does not say that your body is destroyed after you die. Even if you are cremated, all the atoms that make up your body will still exist. This is the law of conservation of mass. However, you are not the same after you die. After decay, the pieces scatter, and the atoms are soon part of new living things. In a way, you live on. In a way, you don’t.

One modern Buddhist was asked that if the soul does not live on, then what part of you survives your death. He laughed and said, “your neurosis”. I thought this was funny as well.

It is as if your negative energy can live on. Can you positive energy live on as well? I think so.

I’m not saying that this is some kind of law for people to believe in. It is just the best way that I can see what’s going to happen to myself after I die.

I may be wrong, and I will be in a lake of fire. In this case, I should be buried in swimming trunks.

Matthew 7:7-12

August 18, 2008

This chapter continues with its feel good message. In this section it basically says ask and you will be given.

I could be wrong, but I think that this is the basis of _The Secret_. If you wish hard enough for something, you will get it. Anyone who ever tried this knows that there are mixed results at best at this approach.

For one thing, there are things we know to be impossible like resurrection. Try it! Close your eyes and wish real hard for someone we could use to be resurrected like Lincoln. If I see Lincoln walking around Philly tomorrow, I’ll admit that I was wrong on this, and the secret really works. If not, I’ll stand by my words.

I think it is dangerous to think this way. In fact, I feel that this is the basest form or religion. I call it the vending machine god. Put your money in the slot, press the button, and you get a coke.

There is so much more to spirituality, I gnash my teeth each time religion is boiled down to such simplistic terms. In fact, I feel that one of the biggest thing I learned from my little spiritual endeavors is accepting things as they are. This is the opposite of “asking and receiving all kind of goodies”.

Somewhere in my heart, there is lingering doubt. Maybe I’m too much of an asshole. Maybe I’m not one of the chosen people. Maybe there are people somewhere who are wishing away and getting all the goodies that they want. I bet they live in the suburbs where they never have to listen to other people’s shitty music.

I don’t know. All I know is that _my_ spirituality tells me that I wish them the best. I wish that they are free of pain and their riches increase.

Matthew 7: 6

August 14, 2008

Just like Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 7 is turning out to be one of the best seasons ever, so far, Matthew 7 is similarly a rocking chapter so far.

We get to a quote that is so pithy and useful, I can only comment on one line again. I guess I’m going to be crawling through this book for sometime to come.

This quote says “give not what is holy to the dogs”. I take this personally. It basically tells people not to talk to me about religion. I can relate to the dogs because I don’t understand what “holy” means. Does it mean we have some kind of respect or reverence? I can understand that, but why not say that. Or does it mean that we have to have a certain kind of feeling when we approach it? I get a special feeling when in a church especially when touching holy water. I know that it is just H2O, but there’s something magic about it to me.

I find this to be the biggest problem in vampire shows that are in a post-religious world. The vampires are actually linked to Christianity and when you get rid of most of Christianity, you get some strangeness. For example, Buffy sometimes uses holy water to burn vampires, but where does she get it? She doesn’t seem to go to church much, though she did mention bible reading in one episode. Does she steal it or buy it from a gift shop? Since religion is stripped of much of its power, it seems almost silly that crosses burn vampires especially just a piece of wood. That seems to be unreal to me. You should take a crucifix at least because any two pieces of wood that have fallen in the woods should not be able to burn a vampire. Does the cross have to be 90 degrees? What if it is 45 degrees? At what angle does it cease to operate?

Sorry, I got off track. I meant to speak of Matthew 7:6, but I guess I proved Jesus’s point there. It continues, “…neither ye cast your pearls before swine…” What a poetic line. I love it! Basically it means don’t talk about intelligent things to stupid people because you are just wasting your time. I like the fact he does not mention holy because this is a much more universal lesson, one that I can relate to as the person who has the pearls, too.

Then again, to believe this is a kind off pride. What if I don’t have pearls, but I am a swine? Hard to tell.

Faith? But faith that creates pride is a false faith; it’s actually delusion, not faith at all. Faith is a feeling a strength that your mind has in adversity that what you are doing is right, but it does not exclude a healthy skepticism and intelligent thought nor does it stop one from having compassion for others.

At any rate, having humility will also prohibit you from giving all your wonderful pearls to others and thus watching them trampled underfoot. So basically, if you have a bunch of pearls (good ideas) be very careful who you tell them to. Or in other words:

Beware swine!

Matthew 7:1-5

August 13, 2008

Now we are getting into my most favorite Bible quote of all times: “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

It is very clear. Even the archaic English works in this line, adding a neat flourish to what would otherwise say, “Don’t judge other people if you don’t want to be judged.”

Oops, my overly critical brain found a hole in this all ready. It is written in the passive voice. I wanted to write “Don’t judge other people if you don’t want SOMETHING to judge you”. But I didn’t know what something was. Other people? God? The passive voice lets you get away with not being specific. I’ll let this slide.

I really like this line anyway. It basically makes a sin of accusing other people of sin. What’s cooler than recursion?

The rest of the lines in this section elaborate the first. I like the part where it says that you shouldn’t look for a speck (mote) in someone’s eye when there’s a beam [of wood] in one’s own eye.

I find that I usually see in other the things I am most concerned about regarding myself. For example, when I was trying to learn how to sit quietly, I would notice when other people fidgeting all the time. This is funny because noticing people fidgeting is the opposite of sitting quietly. You should be quiet in a storm.

Needless to say, I realize that though I see bad things in others, I realize that I shouldn’t point them out. This passage reinforces that. Also, if you criticize others, you sound like a dick. Am I the only one who thinks that people who use biblical lines out of context to harass homosexual parades are probably gay?

Not that I’m criticizing them for it. As a personal goal, I’m trying not to criticize anyone, and failing a lot.

Matthew 6:25-34

August 12, 2008

This whole section is actually a repeat of the same idea: “take no thought of any of your future needs, if you seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things will be added to you.”

I guess I don’t need to say that this is highly impractical. This will especially break down if everyone in society did this all at once. The same is true if everyone became a renunciant, a Buddhist monk who lived from the goodwill of others. The idea in India, at least, was that everyone would NOT do this as there were too many attractions from the world. That is, there was a good home life, children, and good food. Buddha didn’t think that everyone would give these things up all at once. He was right about this.

In China, this Buddhism changed because they did not have a culture that supported people who were spiritual seekers who would live by begging. Therefore, they had gardens in the Chan monasteries. This practice continued when Buddhism moved over to Japan. All the temples have gardens to support themselves. In fact, it is a Zen saying, “A day without work is a day without food.” This is NOT originally an idea said by Buddha.

I believe it is similar in the US. Most people do not support begging of any kind. Therefore, most Buddhists will usually support themselves by teaching or they would save up money to go on retreats. The good exchange with international markets made this really easy for a long time. Minimum wage here goes a long way in many Asian countries. Plus, you don’t spend much money in a monastery anyway. Also, if you live in an Asian monastery, there are some places where the culture does permit people to support monks who beg.

So one might think that Christian cultures are similar. As far as helping the poor goes, there are many Christians who spend a lot of time doing just that.

However, I have rarely seen a convert to Christianity who suddenly has no worries just like I have never seen Buddhist converts who suddenly have no concerns. We live in the real world, so I believe we are going to have real concerns. I don’t see a way around this. I don’t see this as a particular problem.

Therefore, I guess that this passage is one of those passages that is treated like a metaphor which means that whatever it literally means is completely nullified and ignored. In fact, that kind of Christians that are Republicans seem to have a lot of anger and hatred of the poor. They also spend a lot of time worrying about the future.

If they did not then they would not worry about terrorism. At all. They would tell us all to be calm. After all, “the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor they gather into barns; yet your heavenly father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?”

The answer is NO. We have to worry. A lot.

The other answer is that we have to work a lot. This chapter says that it is OK not to work at all and not worry about tomorrow. God will feed you. But the message I am getting is work hard and you will be rewarded which is the opposite of this chapter.

I am beginning to feel like this book is one of those documents that is released by the CIA. I can picture it covered with blacked out areas. The only areas that are visible are the ones that talk of faith, gays, and the punishment in hell.

I am reading 10 lines here that tell me not to work at all nor have any concern of what tomorrow brings. That faith will feed and clothe me.

Perhaps there were nicer people 2000 years ago. I’m keeping my job.