Category Archives: Religion

Cloudy Days

If you have a clear Western horizon with minimal clouds over the next few days, take a look just a few minutes to a half hour or 45 minutes after sunset. You’ll see the crescent moon, a little bigger and a little higher every night. You’ll see Venus, which will be REALLY BRIGHT. And if you’re lucky (not too lucky, it’s not THAT hard), to the upper right of Venus a ways you’ll see a much dimmer object – that’s Mercury.

We won’t be seeing that in Los Angeles. This was last night:

And this was tonight:

There’s a major storm moving in for the next several days, so maybe Thursday? Friday?

That’s the message from the Universe tonight. It doesn’t care what you wanted or were wishing for or were hoping for. It doesn’t care if any given time period was going to have something happening that you wanted to observe or participate in or enjoy. The Universe will cloud out your planetary conjunction or eclipse or rocket launch or baseball game or marathon or parade or plane flight or vacation and be totally oblivious and uncaring.

It us, the little animated meat sacks on this dust most in the cosmos who put meaning on it. We are the context.

Logically, or perhaps “theologically,” the Serenity Prayer has it correct in that there are three things we should ask for – serenity to accept things that can’t be changed, courage or strength to change the things that can, and wisdom to know which is which.

It’s one cloudy day when I start quoting prayers. As for this particular prayer, today I’m apparently zero for three.

There’s always tomorrow, even if it’s cloudy.

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Photography, Religion, Weather

No Context For You – January 24th

Perception. It’s a funny thing.

I liked this picture on the phone, but couldn’t figure out to save my life what the snippet of writing was or any of the other forms. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much for this post.

Then, just before hitting “Publish,” one element goes “SNAP!” in my brain, recognizable despite the aspect change, color change, spin away from the horizontal. Like lightning dominoes the pieces fell into position.

The brain is weird.

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No Context For You – January 17th

 

 

Thought #1 re: everything – as we all know, “Don’t think! You can only hurt the team.”

Thought #2 re: Thought #1 – “What’s the team done for me recently?”

Thought #3 re: Thought #2 – “Yes! I hear you! The voices! The nuns, the nuns, will they never GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!”

Thought #4 re: Thought #3 – Sin! Ask for it by name! Accept no substitutes!

GOTO Thought #3 – Infinite Loop

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No Context For You – January 08th

I did not come down with a cold – yet. Or the flu, which has rampaged through our small office – yet.

Thought #1 re: that – Let’s assume my guardian angel is doing a good job of prioritizing and protecting me from the biggest threats so I’m staying healthy while all about me are spending days and weeks in misery. How bad must that flu be so that I need that sort of angelic protection instead of some divine intervention with Lottery numbers or something useful? Hey, I’ll take a week of the flu if I can get about $50M cash after taxes, thanks! Just an FYI…

Thought #2 re: that – How freakin’ EGOMANIACAL do humans have to be to believe that the Lord Supreme God of the Entire Universe would create an entire race of divine beings for no purpose other than to follow us around (invisibly, mind you) and protect us from evil and guide us toward being good people. We, the psychotic and only semi-intelligent meat puppets of planet Earth, working hard to annihilate ourselves and take the rest of the planet and the biosphere down with us, **WE** get our own personal set of divine slaves!

Thought #3 – wow, that got dark and escalated quickly!

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Groundless Faith vs Depressing Reality

Having been raised Catholic, complete with six years of nuns in full “penguin” regalia teaching Catholic school, I’m familiar with the concept of faith.

Having rejected Catholicism and all other religions, I’m familiar with the realization that reality often sucks.

Tonight, having exposed myself to my daily dose of muck, mire, stupidity, and hatred in the news, I saw a comment by someone who was taking solace in her faith in God and her belief that under divine guidance it would all work out for the best. (For the moment we’ll ignore the discrepancy between that common view of the deity’s job description and the theological necessity for free will.)

For a moment I was almost jealous. In her piety and faith she wasn’t pissed off, depressed, furious, outraged, or anxious. God would take care of it, all’s well, let’s have dinner!

Then I was wondering how people with that kind of faith can manage to hold on to it when their it turns out God might have been asleep at the wheel that day. I know that many people lose their faith at that time (hey, welcome back to reality, have some wet wipes, there’s a lot of shit being flung about out here!) but many, such as my mother, hold onto it no matter what.

So which is better, to face reality with all of its flaws and warts and at times like this being pummeled heavily about the head and shoulders with the fact that we’re a long, long way from that mythical Paradise? Or to sail through it all with our faith as the rock solid keel keeping us on course, only to end up spinning and capsizing when that keel breaks away?

I’ll stick with reality for a lot of reasons, but here’s a key one that comes to mind.

If you forfeit the ownership of the world’s slimier aspects, you also forfeit any credit for its moments of bliss. You can believe that God’s invisible angels are all around you, or you can find yourself to be an angel of our own making. This can be in the smallest things, the way you treat people from total strangers to heads of state, to the biggest things possible, such as how you choose to react in a crisis.

You also get to take ownership of the world’s rainbows appearing in a ray of brilliant sunshine slipping through a hole in a black  thunderhead, the sound of the thunder rolling across the landscape, and the brilliant stars that come in the clear night skies that follow.

Sometimes there is an awful lot of shit to wade through, but if you’re going to have faith, think about a Mozart symphony, a 9-11 first responder, your child’s first cry, and the feel of your lover’s hand in yours as you walk through a quiet forest – then have faith there there really will be a pony underneath all of that shit.

 

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By Their Bumper Stickers Shall You Know Them

I don’t think it’s ever a good thing to judge total strangers based on a first impression or some potentially superficial facet of their persona. But I’ll make an exception for bumper stickers. If you’re passionate enough about something to start advertising it as you drive around, you’re fair game for a snap judgement based on the advertising you choose for your vehicle.

Two cases in point from LA’s streets:

First, I’m one of those guys who, either for altruistic reasons or for neurotic reasons (or both), will flash my headlights at someone who’s driving at night with their headlights out. About 98% of the time it’s totally ignored – someone who’s clueless enough to be driving without headlights is also so brain dead or distracted behind the wheel that they simply don’t notice anyone flashing their lights. About 1% of the time it actually works – they get the signal, recognize it, go “Oh, shit, that’s me,” and turn on their lights.

The other 1% I ran into on my way home tonight. His custom plates were something like “GOD♡4EVR” and there were at least a half dozen bumper stickers on the back gate of the minivan asking if I had been saved, warning me that in case of the Rapture the car would be empty, and so on.

Coming up behind them I could see that the tail lights were dark, and as soon as we got to a darker stretch of the road it was obvious his headlights were off as well. The brake lights were working fine, so the problem was obvious. I flashed my lights, once, twice – nothing. We were coming up on a light that had just turned red, there was no one else around us, so I switched lanes and pulled up beside the guy. I rolled down my passenger window and honked, trying to get him to look over so I could tell him what’s wrong.

Nothing. I honked again. Still nothing. I tapped the horn a third time and let my car drift forward a few inches so that I could see the driver better. Isn’t the normal reaction to at least glance over and see who’s honking and why?

The look on this guy’s face said it all. It was a middle aged white guy, balding, collared dress shirt with no tie but buttoned all the way to the top. He was staring straight ahead and scared shitless. There was no way on Earth he was going to glance over and make eye contact.

MY GOD SOME LUNATIC ON THE ROAD HAS BEEN FLASHING HIS LIGHTS AT ME AND NOW HE’S HONKING AT ME IT’S PROBABLY ONE OF THOSE GANG INITIATION THINGS THAT I HEARD ABOUT ON HANNITY OR THE 700 CLUB AND IF I LOOK OVER THERE IT WILL BE A LOW-RIDER FULL OF GANG MEMBERS JUST WAITING TO BLOW ME AWAY SO WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK!

I left him alone and gave him plenty of space, not honking or flashing any more. About a block later he turned off into a subdivision which, coincidentally, had a serious lack of street lighting. It was almost comical as I went by to see how he suddenly slammed on his brakes in the middle of the road and finally turned on his lights.

Do I think he suddenly said, “Ah ha! That’s what that guy was trying to tell me!” Or do I think he’s at home on some whackjob website perpetuating that stupid urban myth?

Second guy, while I was taking a quick walk around the block at lunch yesterday. A guy is trying to parallel park. He’s got a Prius. He’s trying to parallel park into a spot big enough to easily fit an Escalade. The key work is “trying.” Once, fails. Pulls out and tries again. Fails. Pulls out and backs up to try to pull forward-ish into the spot. Fails. Pulls back out and tries the parallel parking again. Fails and almost hits the car that’s already parked there.

I was going to stop and give him some hand signals or help (remember, altruistic and/or psychotic) when I saw the not one, not two, but three “Ted Cruz” bumper stickers.

For all I know he’s still trying to park that sucker.

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Filed under Freakin' Idiots!, Los Angeles, Politics, Religion

Too Much World News

I’ve always been one who wanted to keep abreast of the news, even when that meant the evening news with Huntley and Brinkley and the Chicago Tribune. Or the Springfield Times-Reporter and John Chancellor. That interest in current events and world news became an obsession when I was a midshipman at Annapolis.

One of the “learning exercises” that is used to train plebes is to have them memorize massive amounts of information, then regurgitate it on command of any upperclassman or officer. This is, of course, impossible by definition. It teaches many things, among them how to think under pressure, how to keep track of large amounts of data and multitask, how to fail and still keep going, how to prioritize your time, and so on.

One of the particular techniques used for this is the delivery of a morning newspaper every day, usually before dawn. If everyone else is up at 0600, plebes need to be up at 0500, scanning the paper for details and news that might be of particular interest to the upperclassmen in their company. These are the ones most likely to be grilling you at breakfast. You learn quickly that this one’s favorite baseball team is the Yankees, his favorite player is Lou Piniella, so you need to know the score of last night’s game, what Piniella did, where the Yankees are in the standings, who the winning and losing pitchers are, where they’re playing tonight, who tonight’s starting pitchers are… Tomorrow you get to learn that all over. And the next day.

Multiply that by twenty or thirty or more. This one hates baseball but loves NASCAR. This one is keeping track of the development of the F-14 Tomcat fighter. This one wants to know anything significant about Detroit, his home town. That one follows politics and economics and wants to know what the Dow Jones is doing. And so on, and on, and on.

One of the side effects of surviving this (sort of) is that you either never want to see a newspaper or news report again, or you become neurotically obsessed with the news. Since most of the young men and women there are extremely bright, well educated, in touch with the world, and being trained for leadership roles, it’s almost always the latter.

Flash forward forty years, where 1974’s stream of information has become more like Niagara Falls. The internet, social media, FaceBook, Twitter, hundreds of channels of cable television, multiple 24/7 news channels…

As you might imagine, this is like giving a heroin addict a lifetime supply and an IV the size of a garden hose.

This is not to say that I spend all of my waking hours trying to “drink from the fire hose” of information. I manage to stay quite functional, thank you very much. But I do have a much higher than average interest in the news and keeping track of almost anything that I find interesting, be it local, state wide, national, or international. In my case, this also extends to interplanetary, interstellar, and intergalactic, as you may have noticed from some of the previous 1,000+ posts.

One of the serious down sides of this that I’m seeing is the almost overwhelming depressing tone of so much of recent news. Whether the terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, and Egypt, or just about anything coming out of any of the US Presidential candidates, it’s difficult to stay optimistic and upbeat some days. Yet, there’s that phobia, that fear (thanks, Annapolis!) that something important might get missed or overlooked if I turn away.

I find more and more that I find myself reaching my limit and turning away. I don’t know if it’s me getting older, or weaker, or if the news itself has just gotten to be more horrible. Actually, I think it’s just an effect of the sheer volume of information and news available today, not necessarily the nature of it. If the internet and social media had been around in all of their glory during the American Civil War, World War II, or even Vietnam, I’m sure we would be seeing horrors that would match anything that Daesch is doing or Trump is spewing out of his ignorant face. (Sorry, did that come out loud?)

So now that we can see cell phone videos from inside the theater where more than 100 people died on Saturday – I don’t need to. Now that we can see videos of Jihad John decapitating innocent hostages – I don’t need to. Now that the Republican presidential candidates seem to be trying to constantly one-up each other to see who can be the most ignorant, reactionary, clueless, and tasteless – I don’t need to watch.

Many people are responding to the deluge of hate, anger, and terror by posting pictures of kittens or puppies. Or penguins. That may be a better option for me right now. I’ve got stories to write, another major adjustment in my life to make, and enough stress in my every day life to keep me on my toes. I don’t have to pile the troubles of the entire world on top of that.

I no longer care what Bob Guida’s favorite football team did today or what happened in Detroit. Google it yourself.

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