Human Dum-Dum

pats0 self-portrait

“I swear, gentlemen, that to be too conscious is an illness – a real thorough-going illness.”

–Fyodor Dostoyevsky Notes from the Underground

Bukowski once said something to the effect of: It was writing and the bottle that kept me alive…something like that. For a while, maybe a year…or two, I’ve been trying one half of that equation–vigorously. I haven’t really been writing a lot, and it’s a bit depressing. So I think I’ll try both halves and see how that works out.
I’m not sure why I set an arbitrary 1000 words per post rule. I think I do this to myself for nefarious reasons. I can’t be 100 percent sure. I can remember why I didn’t want to go over that number, but I can be under. This is me giving myself permission to do shorter blog posts. Clearly, this is a throw away paragraph and will not be in the final draft. What? How did you do that, you scrappy paragraph? Well, at any rate–I can’t stay mad at you, you rapscallion.
That last paragraph was a breach of the trust that we have built as writer and reader. And I apologize. This is obviously a blatant attempt at word-padding. And it is beneath us both. But you try and tell that paragraph to get outta here. You can’t; can you? I ain’t mad. Group hug: me, you, and the paragraph.
I recently quit my job. I tried to stay on as long as I could. That’s a lie. I could have stayed on longer, but things were getting dumber there and I’d lost my sense of humor about the entire mess. So, I gave them my three days notice and bounced. Generally, when quitting a job I give two weeks’ notice as a courtesy. But that is if I’m moving on to another opportunity. If that company was inclined to terminate my employment, they would not give me two weeks’ notice. They’d tell me to hand over my keys and leave the property. And I was less quitting my job than firing them as my company. So that’s a justification. But it’s an honest one. As honest as can be expected from the likes of me. This is our unwritten agreement. That made me giggle more than it should’ve.
The fact is, I came up with a philosophy years ago that follows–roughly: “There’s gotta be an easier way to die broke, and we all die broke”. I don’t know if it’s a life-hack or a rationalization. Either way, I’ve a propensity…possibly an addiction…for hitting the reset button on life. But, I’m not the one who made the button red and candy-like. You’re welcome, Ren and Stimpy fans the world over. This blog gets read in Korea, though I’ve little evidence that it’s gaining any traction in that time-zone. But I regress, daily. That made me a giggle an appropriate amount.
Of recent, I tried a thought experiment. I did it on accident at first, but then it became more deliberate. It happened on Facebook, the: “Boys of Summer” (Don Henley version) of the internet. I’d over-estimated the collective intellect of Facebook (I realize that people get offended when one questions another’s actions intellectually; I don’t like it either but as the great sage Lil’ Weezy is wont to quip: “I don’t go around fire, expectin’ not to sweat”.) I commented about Planned Parenthood in response to a hoax video that I’d already known as a farce (me and the rest of the interweb), that The Face had not come to terms with…or: with which Facebook had not yet come to terms. I do not mean to be vulgar. The baby parts “selling” video…it’s not real…Bing it, or Google it, or check out the front page of the internet: Reddit…it is fake.
My next post is about my interactions with some people whom I love. People with whom I can discuss a great deal of issues. But people who seem to have determined that the suggestion of Planned Parenthood–as a positive–communicates that you are pro-abortion. Which is unsettling for this pro-choice/pro-life human dum-dum…

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Oh Evangelicalism, Melt Down Your Golden Calves: and Feed The Homeless

not like this

not like this

“So I said, ‘Who has gold?’ And they took off their jewelry and gave it to me. I threw it in the fire and out came this calf.” –AAron (Exodus)

I recently found myself in hot water (again) on account of the fact that I made some comments in a comment-thread on a public forum…I won’t give out the name of the forum, but it starts with Face and ends in tears…

This happens to me from time to time, a fact which might lead some of you to think: “Why do you even engage?”  I do it because I like the exchange…I like the back and forth, I only find out afterward that some folks don’t…but maybe you’re right.

This particular exchange was predicated on the sharing of a link, the clicking of which sent one to this blog post, written by a pastor named Mark Barrett.  Pastors’ blogs, with a few rare exceptions needed to prove the rule, are the internet’s version of car-seat instructions: generally filled with what most similarly-minded folks would consider common-sense; but, “hey I have a computer and a little free-time, so…why not?”

I’ll leave you to determine whether or not Pastor Barrett’s “review” holds water.  But it straight-up pissed me off on a visceral level.  Now I’m not saying that this post was the most misogynistic, condescending  writing I’ve ever had the misfortune of receiving from the mind of a conservative evangelical.  But, what I am saying is–that when I read a paragraph that includes ideas like: ” What became apparent to me very quickly was that this book is written primarily for women. That was clear by the emotionally-charged language and the overzealous and abundant use of adjectives.”–I am not inclined to slow-clap and say: “Good point, Archie, but while you were running your Pork-hole, Edith forgot to make us coffee, so should I bitch-slap her, or are you gonna regulate this situation?”

And while I was dubious about the good pastor’s intentions, and–eventually–his intellect (I believe my exact phrasing was: ” Oh I just realized that Pastor Barrett’s first language might not have been English…I’m an asshole, but even I don’t punch kids in wheelchairs…at least I haven’t in the last three weeks.”), this was not the main issue.

Nor was the most important issue: the backseat brazier-fumbling of a pastor trying his level-best to “protect” “his” “flock” from “dangerous” ideas…an over-reach that is visited upon congregants who seem all too readily available for emotional manipulation, the reasons for which I can understand, but have little patience.  I am no fighter…I did a little fighting in school; generally with poor showings, and (almost) always in defense of myself, or others, against bullies.  I’m not a big fan of bullies, and while I am physically diminutive, I can be a bad-ass muther-fucker on the page (to adopt the nomenclature of: “the kids”) these two facts about me earned Pastor Barrett the following list of questions in the comments’ section of his blog (they’re still awaiting “moderation”; his, not mine):  (Note: These were not the comments written in the comments’ thread of the Facebook post.)

Pastor Barrett, are women allowed to speak and have their heads uncovered in your church? (this one was just a light-hearted joke…a left jab in a sparring match…a test of just how literally he interprets Paul [the late apostle; both to the party, and in life])

Also, what is it about the human vagina, in your opinion*, that makes one unable to write without extraneous use of emotion and/or adjectives? (like I said: his insensitive words about female writers and readers pissed me off a bit)*the phrase: “in your opinion” was not in the original question, it was what I meant, but I didn’t catch its omission until after I’d clicked “submit”

Additionally*, is it your position that the author of Hebrews was trying to convey the idea that there is no other revelation aside from that of Christ? (the context of his paragraph seemed to be using Hebrews 1:1-2 as the proof-text for his idea that God is no longer in the business of handing out “revelation”…now, you can believe what you’d like about God’s involvement with ongoing revelation to man, but don’t drag the writer of Hebrews into it…this text was clearly meant to include Christ in the pantheon of former revelators…it is the acme of eisegetical-assholery to impose a message of finality with it.)* the word “additionally” was actually “also” in the original phrasing

Finally, if one were to pray for discernment, and–hypothetically–received said discernment, what–if not revelation–would one call said discernment? (splitting hairs?  maybe. valid points sometimes do that.)

The worst part was that: nobody spoke to the questions I raised about Pastor Barrett’s wisdom.  I was accused by a woman (w/ an unhealthy reliance on emoticons) of not being a Christian…or at least not a Bible-believing Christian (a distinction that is absolutely as manipulative as it sounds).  I was accused, via text, by a dear friend, of hi-jacking another dear friend’s ( and first dear friend’s wife) Facebook post (a charge that I still cannot comprehend…this wasn’t locked away in some armored-car from which I–a masked bandit–extracted it, on a cold and darkened stretch of hi-way, and exploited it for my own pleasure; it was a shared link on a social-media site upon which I commented).  Then, after everyone took their shots at what I had to say, again never calling into question the veracity of my claims only the audacity of my actions; the whole thing was erased.

An evangelical pastor spoke, a dissenter of said pastor’s ideas commented, said commenter was reprimanded, then the whole ugly business was scrubbed from the record.  I apologized to my friends for causing them frustration (I guess that’s the best way to put it), I didn’t mean for anyone to get upset…Hell, I didn’t expect that anyone would get upset.  I couldn’t apologize for my actual actions, I didn’t (and still don’t) think I’d done anything wrong.  Mayhaps that’s a bit obtuse; but that’s all it is…and I’m confident that that sin is forgivable.

One afternoon, after spending a bit of time talking to God–who was costumed as an inconsumable brush-fire, Moses came down to where the rest of his peeps had been awaiting his news.  They’d somehow fashioned an idol out of gold.  Moses, having laid eyes upon said idol, lost his shit.  There was a time when these types of idols were shaped like: (and I’m just spit-balling here) baby cows and the like.

Now we have taken to shaping them like: portly, bearded, bespectacled, balding, sometimes-all-of-the-above men–who boast larger libraries than literary sense…

The Dirt Bag Baller Comes Clean)))Sort Of

trite bullshit

“There’s a fucking fine line between being funny and being a bully” –Marc Maron WTF podcast

My first inclination was to write a piece about nothing more than what the sign in the above picture said and whether or not its claims were apt.  But when I started to write this it became more about my personal experience from a comment that I made about the sign.  This feels more honest to me.  This is obviously my side of the story (meaning: My explanation for my behavior both good and shitty); it’s also important to note that this is an interaction between myself and two of my friends, and we are still friends.

So it’s July 5th (it may have started on the 4th…), and I’m perusing the Facebook, as I am wont to do, when I come across the above image that was posted by one of my friends who has served in the military abroad.  When I first read the sign I thought to myself: “This has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve read in recent memory.”  I did not make that comment…I generally don’t make forward comments like that…they are more aggressive than I fancy myself, and they don’t really add to the discussion in any informed way.  I think I commented with the phrase: “I love irony.”; which is not aggressive but also doesn’t add to the discussion in any informed way, and is probably a misuse of an oft misused literary term…who remembers?  This first comment didn’t land me in any hot water.  How could it?  It committed itself to no world-view and was in no way a coherent statement.  When I identified what in the sign’s text was causing me angst I became more coherent, and sometimes when I become coherent I find trouble…the aforementioned water.  What really bothered me about the sign was its seeming comparison of sacrifices made by Jesus Christ and the American Soldier respectively.  My immediate response (or reaction if you’d like…I’ll call it a response because I think that that’s what it was and, since this is my blog, my version of history wins here) was to bring up ways in which the sacrifices differed.  This second comment was not received well.  I’ll get to the actual comment shortly but first a little blurb in the interest of full-disclosure.

I’m a smart-ass, I’ve been that way for some time and as I get older I try to be a smart-ass who is careful about the feelings of others.  I do this to the best of my abilities taking into account that I am also a passive-aggressive with an emphasis on passive.  Because of that when I say something that offends someone it surprises me…their being offended surprises me.  I don’t want to offend people, but I also don’t care enough about it to carefully guard my words against such a transgression.  This is disingenuous, and I think we can all agree it is shitty behavior.  It is who I am.  I’m working on it.  I’m working on it because I love people and am motivated to do so as way of worshipping God who first loved me.  Some of my smart-assery is taken as being mean-spirited or acting a bully.  Neither of which are intended, but nor are they actively fought against…at least not to any appreciable degree.  When first I was accused of being a bully, I thought it laughable.  I’ve never considered myself a bully because my posture has always been defensive and motivated by fear.  I suppose all bullies tell themselves this lie.

The comment that I made was that only one of the two defining forces mentioned on the sign received a chance at a college education for their efforts.  Again this started as me pointing out a difference in the sacrifices made.  It was meant to be a smart-ass way of busting my friend’s chops…the friend who originally posted the picture of the sign.  My friend’s wife, who is also my friend, and who has also served in the U.S. military abroad, did not like that statement…not even a little–I think.  We have yet to actually talk about it…  I was not trying to call into question the practice of giving service women and men a chance to go to college as part of the compensation for their service…I fully support that policy.  If we as a people have decided that it is important to have a strong military presence in the world, and thus people that presence with folks who are of college age, we should be committed to helping them with education and the buying of a house and anything else that could somehow repay their sacrifice, a sacrifice that I recognize as being profound.  I think the U.S. military is horribly over-funded.  I think the people of the military are horribly under-paid.  Especially when one considers that their efforts almost always result in someone getting very rich.  Also, let it be known that I am against giving Jesus a college education, not because I’m anti-Jesus or anti-education…I guess what I’m trying to say is I wouldn’t want Jesus to be in my college class it would be distracting, Jesus raising his hand over and over again saying: “My Dad told Me it happened differently.”…we get it Jesus, Your Dad is God.

I started to get the impression that my off-handed remark/joke was being taken more seriously than I had intended, so I tried to make it clear that I was kidding.  That was met with a comment about the sacrifice of the military who are charged with doing their duty regardless of their conviction about the specific task at hand.  Which is a true statement.  My friend told me that she was sent off to war while her dad was in the ICU.  I couldn’t imagine what that must have felt like to her.  It made me realize the sacrifice that she made even more deeply.  I had never not valued the sacrifice…I understand that the people of the U.S. military make massive sacrifices, the likes of which I’ve never done (I say that without shame, I’ve never wanted to make said sacrifice, it is not my conviction to do so). 

My intent was not to diminish the sacrifice.  My intent was to diminish the claims of the sign, claims that I found hyperbolic.  I was thinking: “What would a North Vietnamese Christian think if he read that sign? What of the citizens of East Timor? What of the Native Peoples of this continent who have entrusted their lives to Jesus?”  I imagine they would be confused by the sign’s claims on both an historical and theological level.  I also thought the sign was self-serving and wrong-minded; lots of people offer to lay down their lives for us as U.S. citizens: first responders, cops, people working in south-east-Asian sweat-shops, a significant percentage of people who happen upon a burning building…the list could go on, but you get the picture.  On some level I think that I was confused by the use of Jesus Christ in a sign that was meant to promote American Nationalist propaganda.  I could’ve handled it better…hell, I should’ve handled it better.

At the end of the day, I have a love for people not institutions, but here’s where it gets tricky: sometimes when I call-out institutions I hurt people who are involved with those institutions.  I don’t want to be a guy who hurts people (I tried to come up with an interesting way of saying that last sentence…swing and a miss).  I apologized in the same thread because I was sorry for not being careful with my words…I couldn’t ask for forgiveness for my words, I hadn’t said anything wrong and to apologize for that would’ve been insincere.     

One last thing to consider: History is filled with strong-willed leaders who use force as a means to accomplish their ends and dopey smart-asses who are willing to question those ends as well as the means by which they’re accomplished.  History is very clear about what happens to a society when the smart-asses are forced to be silent…