Saturday, December 29, 2012

Giving God His Propers

We don't really know each other. We have perceptions of each other based on our own experiences, proclivities, hopes, fears, and prejudices. We have 'best guesses' of each other, with varying degrees of accuracy. Like Thomas Aquinas pointed out, our perceptions of each other are like the panels in the eye of a fly: representative--possibly--of one aspect of the being that we perceive, but hardly representative of the whole.

If you misjudge me, I can set you right. But I don't really even totally know myself, so how right can I set you? Our perceptions of ourselves are also 'best guesses'. Perhaps they are more educated guesses; but they're still guesses. Our perceptions of ourselves are based on our own experiences, proclivities, hopes, fears, and prejudices. Our perceptions of ourselves are also like the panels in the eye of a fly, but instead of windows, they are mirrors.

So if you misjudge me, I can try to set you right, but maybe I'm wrong. You have all kinds of reasons to reject my self-interpretation in favor of your own interpretation, because you know deep inside that I possess as many blind spots as you do to interpreting the nature of a being. We are also pattern seeking animals, and it is your method of pattern seeking that has kept you alive all this time.

I am able to rebut your perception of me, because I am right in front of you. Actually, I am not. You're reading something I've written. You could e-mail me, or call me, or visit me, and we could discuss what I've written, and I could tell you what I think is wrong about your reading, and you could tell me what you think is wrong about my writing. Perhaps we'd come up with a synthesis. But I'm alive, I'm in this world, and it is possible to get closer to my original intent than it would be if I were dead, or if it were probable that someone else had written this little piece under my name. Who could even begin to guess the motive of someone who would do something so unprofitable?

God, who is alleged to be much 'bigger' than us, with ways much 'higher', would be much more difficult to perceive. We would do so with our own experiences, proclivities, hopes, fears, and prejudices. Because God is not present to set us right, ultimately our perceptions of God would be manifestations of our own private values, aspirations, wishes and fears. You may refer to a particular holy text or guru as someone or something that might set me right on this, but the same problem that is encountered when examining this text is also present, but compounded. It's compounded by the absence of the author, by the dubiousness of the authorship, by the unlikelihood of the supernatural claims, and by the Outsider's Test For Faith, which, if taken honestly, points directly at the ultimately subjective nature of faith-value.

God is not here to rebut your perception, and it is highly unlikely that God even exists. How much projection can I cast upon a being that is unlikely to exist? A lot more than I can cast upon a being that I know exists, and that's a hell of a lot.

I don't believe in God. I am an atheist. I have also come to realize that non-belief is perhaps the most respectful and appropriate response to any possible gods. If we can't make wholly accurate statements about the motives and actions of others--and even ourselves--then how can we even begin to approach statements about a thing that is alleged to be much 'bigger' and 'higher' than ourselves? Surely, any belief that we state in such a being would ultimately be only a deification of some aspect of ourselves, and isn't that the worst kind of blasphemy?

I don't believe in God, which makes sense for an atheist. But my recommendation to the theist as well--if they truly love their god--is to abandon belief in it. It's the only way to appropriately respect the bigness, highness, and mystery of that potential being. It's the only way, ultimately, to remain open to it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy your day. Find somebody you love, and give them a big hug. Be grateful that you're here, because this is it, baby.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advice for the Mail

Yesterday my son and I walked out to the mailbox to check the mail. He is 11. I am 31. I opened the box, put my hand inside, and drew out a stack of envelopes. A political advertisement. An envelope full of coupons. An envelope that contained a big yellow bag I could use to donate things to a veteran's organization. A plain white envelope which looked like a bill.

I put all the items back.

"You're not going to bring them in?" my son asked.

"No." I said. "They're not interesting enough. I only bring interesting mail into our house. Let's leave them in the box until they become more interesting".

"Jeez." he said. "I'm glad I'm not a piece of mail".

"Spencer" I said--my son's name is Spencer too--"I would always bring you in the house if you were a piece of mail. You are one of the most interesting people I know".

He smiled. It was a tender moment.

But that made me think. Maybe I'm being unfair to the mail. Maybe it would be better if the mail knew my standards. I am writing this piece for the mail, so that it may increase its chances of making it into my house.

1) Don't be a bill.

2) Don't be an envelope containing a big yellow bag I could use to donate things to a veteran's organization. It's not that I dislike veterans, it is just that I am very selfish, and rarely engage in such activities.

3) Don't be an envelope full of coupons. It's not that I don't like saving, it is just that I am lazy, and feel restricted by coupon shopping. I think of grocery shopping as an art. If I have decided to buy JIF peanut butter over Peter Pan peanut butter one day, I want it to be in a fit of inspiration, not because JIF is 25 cents off that day.

4) Do not be a bill.

5) Do not look like you might be a bill.

6) Do not be a political advertisement.

7) Do not be from an organization requesting that I join you. I know the organizations I want to belong to, and I am a member of those organizations.

8) Be a magazine. But not just any magazine--be a magazine I am interested in. I subscribe to many magazines, but not all of them get read. You see, I am a very pretentious man. If you want to get into the house, don't be the Economist or the International Socialist Review. Be MAD magazine, or maybe Playboy. If you are a catalog, be Victoria's Secret, or maybe IKEA. I think they have some really neat stuff.

9) Don't contain Anthrax. Neither the deadly poison nor the band will make it into my house.

10) Be a package from Amazon. Even if it is not addressed to me, I will open it. I love getting packages in the mail.

11) Be a movie from Netflix, but not a hoity-toity movie that I ordered because I thought it would give me culture. Be something funny, or maybe a disc from a BBC series. BBC has some really funny shows.

12) Be a piece of my neighbor's mail. I think they're up to something, but I'm not sure what. I will take all the intelligence I can get.

13) Be a long lost letter from my friend Ryan. We were exchanging letters before he died, and I never got the response to the last letter I sent him. I loved him, and I miss him. I think reading his last letter would be very comforting to me.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

3 Essential Woody Allen Quotes

I often declare--to the scoffs and rolled eyes of friends, family, and random passers-by--that Woody Allen is the modern world's answer to William Shakespeare. He's not a shoddy answer either; who else traffics in comedy and tragedy, big and ambiguous morality, ghosts, lust, crime, and punishment in as entertaining, consistent, and concise a way as Woody? Only the bard, and he was nowhere near as prolific. He also didn't know anything about jazz.

Woody--like Shakespeare--is also endlessly quotable. Here are the three Woody Allen quotes that I find lend themselves best to a good, robust life.

The first quote is about attendance:

1) "80 percent of success is showing up."

The second quote is about how to conduct yourself once you get there:

2) "Talent is luck. The important thing in life is courage".

The third quote is about perspective:

3) "To you I'm an atheist. To God, I'm the loyal Opposition" - from Stardust Memories