Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On God, on Life and on Death


On God, on Life and on Death

 No man can say there is no God and be right.  In the sense that it is an unknowable truth as to whether or not a creator exists.  There is plenty of evidence to support the statement that God exists, in the fact that we are here as is the Universe.  Something from nothing?  That is a difficult puzzle to solve, try as we may.  That being said, there is the very distinct and some would say, myself included likely probability that a god, a creator exists and every human religion has absolutely no idea what the truth of this God is.  We have spent millennia anthropomorphizing gods to elevate ourselves above the rest of the planet.  We make ourselves gods in God’s absence, to justify our subjugation of the earth, its inhabitants and one another.  We beat our enemies, neighbors and families over the heads with God to exert our will upon them and extract their humanity for our consumption.  Arguing that humanity’s religions are bogus does not deny the existence of God.  Nor does accepting the existence of God in any way legitimize any one of the 2,500+ (320 million if you include all Hindu gods as individuals) gods created by man.  These faces placed upon the unknown and verified by testimonial thousands of years ago, only to be wielded by the damaged, the frightened and the charlatan of today have been a useful tool.  Useful to good men and to wicked men.  They are used to enact great acts of charity and violent massacres of innocents.  Yet still, despite the irrefutable evidence that these institutions are of man and not divine, we continue to live, breath and sacrifice ourselves under these labels, these supplications to OUR god.  We even claim ownership of God, as if her were a sports team.  We pit God against himself, fueling our lust for base satisfaction.  We take words written down thousands of years ago and perform idiomatic gymnastics with a translation of a translation of a translation of a prosaic text and we wonder how that guy at the church next door can POSSIBLY believe THAT when it is so clearly written right here THIS.  We claim one book can so fully describe the ineffable that it is worth staking the lives of your family, the nation and the world on its accuracy and truth. 

 I cannot refute one religion with the truth of God.  That which is unknown to us cannot be used as evidence, despite the fact that its revelation would put to rest forever the single greatest ideological force behind the attempted self-annihilation of the human race.  I can only point out the tactic of the pre-historic through Iron Age practice of using the absolutely bizarre and absolutely impossible as a means of evidence of the improbable.  The fact that we have billions of people on this planet, the great majority of whom have faith and they choose to ascribe every good thing that happens to them as an act of God and every bad thing as bad luck seems suspicious to NO ONE?!? Why can’t good things just happen because the Universe is a complex place and some things just happen to favor us?  Why can’t evil things occur because either through will or circumstance, events occurred that resulted in someone not experiencing the outcome they had desired?  I think at some level, it is all just a desire to have control over the chaos.  The Universe is an unmovable thing.  It includes everything, even our entirety.  If we could just pray and there was a God listening to our prayer and acting on our behalf, we could exert control or influence over that which rules us.  It is the ultimate story of the slave wishing away the master.  That is possibly why the story of the exodus of the Israelites affects so many on such a visceral level.  Most of us have no idea what the slaves of history (and sadly some of the present) experienced as far as brutality, dehumanization and abject hatred from their masters.  However, every one of us can picture being subject to another’s will and their arbitrary dispensing of justice, injustice and humiliation as they see fit.  That is one of the key factors in today’s politics.  The problem with participating in a democratic society is that you have to cede some autonomy for the sake of security and prosperity, just like the fact that in business, you must rely on others, whether employees, suppliers or customers, to earn success. Conservatives have a difficult time ceding their autonomy to a government which overwhelmingly favors their side of the aisle while at the same time ceding all spiritual autonomy to an unseen, unheard from in 2,000 years, manufactured fa├žade of a deity that has questionable origins, a terrible track record as far as consistency is concerned and an unholy distain for bacon.  And that’s just the Christians.  Conservatives of all stripes and denominations like to excuse their arrogance by relabeling it piety.  They do not have a corner on the arrogance market of course, it is just that left unchecked in their hands, their behavior is completely unchecked.  The radical right can destroy programs designed to protect the most vulnerable citizens and advocate devices of war meant to kill millions, mostly civilians and chalk it al up to pithy scriptural quotes about sin, vengeance and smiting one’s enemies.  For all of liberals’ failings (and they do have failings) the bloody hands fall squarely on the right side of the aisle.  Thank goodness all we need to do is walk into a box and confess our sins to a pedophile and we can be absolved, because, hey, at least I’m not as bad as THAT guy.  The problem with just accepting that the probable creator god has really authorized one and only one human text as the true reflection of his will should be obvious.  If a god created all of us in this Universe, not just the humans, but the inhabitants of the other inhabited worlds, the elements of the Universe and the seeds of all life, we have to ask these questions: a) He created life, does he demand death? B) Do we owe him prayers, adoration and murder on his behalf?  C) Is he watching/ does he care?

 So much of this can easily be explained if we acknowledge the only truth we can actually ascertain from the idea of the unmoved mover/creator god: We exist.  The fact is that every other bit of subjective morality we read into our existence and the existence of that which we perceive as “God” is something we have derived in our attempt to make sense of the question of who we are and why we are here.  That should be a very liberating concept to some.  It turns out that it is a very frightening concept to most.  We value our lives on an instinctual level.  All life is hardwired to love itself, at least to the extent that we procreate and make ourselves minor deities in the act. However, more than our life, we value our conscious.  It is not enough that our life, the organic matter, our energy, our breath continues, floats into the ether, comingles with the substance of those we love that went before us and is breathed in by those we have left behind.  We must have our minds, our conscious, perhaps the least perfect piece of our existence.  It is the most flawed part of the miracle that is us, the part that is capable of sin and riddled with dishonesty and jealousy and vice.  The part of us that craves to destroy our body in order to experience fleeting pleasures rather than extend life to its fullest measure is immutable.  We are willing to kill and take our own lives for truths that exist only in our minds and we desire nothing more than to live in these minds for an eternity.  We have been sold a story that we need to suffer the injustices of this life because it will buy us happiness in the next one to come.  That is a great message to sell to a slave.

We are convinced that if we can accept the existence of God, we must acknowledge the supernatural.  Apparently only atheists don’t believe in ghosts.  Why can’t God, the creator be the creator of the natural world, one with rules, rules by which we are all held?  Why can it not be that we are here, subject to the forces of the Universe, and that these are the only rules actually given to us by God?  Do we need a sacred text to tell us that gravity exists?  Apparently that would have been helpful in a pre-Newtonian world.  Still, is it the sign of a malicious God to create and then jus let existence happen?  Is it the sign of a disinterested deity to create and observe, never intervening because that is against the rules he set for himself?  Does God require prophesy?  Does God require manifestation on Earth to exist?  God doesn’t need us and now that creation has come into existence, perhaps we don’t need God.  That doesn’t mean you can’t be grateful for this amazing Universe and choose to be a great person because it makes the Universe a better place to be.  It also doesn’t mean that you have a free pass to be evil because there is no such place as hell.  It just means that we have to choose to do good things and avoid doing bad things for human reasons, hubris, pleasure, gratification, security, conscience, guilt, shame, fear.  We are ruled by these much of the time.  They are our prime motivators.  Perhaps it is time we stop crediting and blaming God for the fact we have built a temple to humanity in his name.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll just pray on it.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

3/9- 3/10 -  2017

Days 9 and 10:

  Playing catch up on my Lenten log, I realize now that if I am going to be so lazy (my prime identifying characteristic) I should at the very least take some notes.  I have been constantly in the search of new ideas for recipes that are both gluten free and edible.  Potatoes, rice and corn are our friends.  We got a circular from our local grocery store and they had a really clever recipe for an inside out Thai salad roll.  Basically it is shrimp and rice vermicelli with cilantro, mint, veg and peanut dressing.  I had to find a gf recipe for the peanut dressing as the one on the store shelf was not, but that was easy enough.  It turned out great.  I ate leftovers the next day and it was great then as well.

  Mario has been a video game nut for a long time.  It was getting to the point that I was becoming concerned.  We knew that once he started school he would start interacting with kids more and hoped that it would translate into more collaborative play at home as well.  It has finally happened.  Mario is all about board games, card games and now, his new favorite game is dominos.  I get it.  It is a classic.  I love that whereas he would just want to plug in and turn into a zombie, now he wants to play games with me.  I will not begrudge him that in the least.  I just have a lot to do and wish Sophia would play with him too.  The age gap between them is becoming more apparent.  One might think that as they grew older it would seem smaller (in proportion to their ages.)  I just have a feeling that puberty will be a major game changer.  Not looking forward to that.  All I can do there is lay down groundwork so they know that they can talk to me and keep me in the loop.... hahaha right.

 I also made a pretty great lemon pound cake from the America's Test Kitchen GF Cookbook.  It was stellar.  Everybody wants it again.  I may just have to accommodate them.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

3/8/2017

Day 8:
  I got up a little early to get my mind and body ready for a day on the road.  Once a month I drive to our Redmond OR office to service the vehicle there, perform basic routine maintenance and make sure the office has everything they need to run smoothly.  Fortunately for the Redmond office, their supervisor ( the regional manager) is excellent at her job and runs a tight ship.  My duties there are mostly perfunctory.  That being said, the fleet vehicle is a little old and has had some issues lately.  I was glad to get a chance to check it out.  As always on my Redmond days, I take a fleet truck home and get on the road early to get past Portland traffic and up the mountain before it gets too late.  Some people go batty in a car on a relatively long trip all alone.  I love it.  i like driving.  I like seeing the foothills to the Cascades, all of the tall forests and the snow on the mountain.  I love coming down from the snow and hitting the desert east face of the mountain.  Driving through Warm Springs, listening to their public radio station with its Native American language lessons, notes from the community center, adverts for the suicide prevention hotline and the ridiculously eclectic collection of songs they play from the DJ booth.  One of the few stations where you hear Conway Twitty followed by Jay Z.
  As is often the case with routine actions, particularly ones that take you away from an otherwise droll task, there is a certain degree of serenity in it.  In fact, it really borders on ceremony for me.  I think it may have something to do with the fact that my last real spiritual experience was from the time I worked in the Native American Cedar Bough program as a counselor.  My friend Richard, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation was very open with his knowledge and his friendship.  He shared a lot, particularly with the Non-Native staff and clients.  It really meant a lot to me, being so recently bereaved and having no real spiritual outlet for my angst.  These little trips, where I can turn on the radio and hear the drums beat, allow me to experience the present without feeling like I am trying to steal or appropriate something.
  I got to Redmond in good time.  I followed up with some safety measures after the IT server rack nearly caught on fire the previous week and I checked out the work the repair tech had performed.  I inspected the fire extinguisher, took the vehicle in for a lube service and checked in with the supervisor.  It ended up taking a bit longer than I had planned, but before too long I was back on the road, ready to repeat my journey but in reverse.  It is always pretty cool to me, driving from the sunshine, through the snow and down into the hazy fog bank of the east side.  Having a GPS on board my vehicle ensures that if I go over 70 an alert will be sent out to my boss.  It is a great thing to have cruise control and nowhere to be.


I got home at a reasonable hour.  I stopped in at the McMenamins at Oak Hills and picked up a growler fill.  I got home and started making dinner.  Pizza from scratch, one of the family faves.  This time I also tried an America's Test Kitchen recipe for Gluten Free pizza crust.  I made a little boo boo and put too much salt in it.  Lisette noticed but she really liked the texture.  So I think we have our GF pizza solution, I just need to learn how to follow directions I guess.  All in all, it was a pretty relaxing day.  Looking forward to next time.

3/6-3/7/2017

Days 6 & 7:

The days run together, particularly when you are lax in your recording of such.  I didn't ave much to say, mostly because things were quiet and routine.  Monday was a pretty clear day at work.  I was able to get some things taken care of before my Boss headed out of town.  He spends a couple weeks a month overseeing the other programs around the country and leaves me to take care of my campus.  In June he is moving to Memphis which will pretty much mean I am flying solo.  Great.  As if working in the basement like a Morlock wasn't bad enough.  Any way, the sun was shining, I got the go ahead to buy some new toys, I got home before everybody else and had some time to just relax and gather my thoughts.  For having such a solitary job in such a quiet location, I sure don't feel I have much time to think and ponder.

Tuesday was not as nice outside.  It was however a bit more eventful.  I realized the pool filters in the pump house were leaking and needed some work.  I was able to finally locate the parts I needed and get everything put back together.  That was my new experience for the day...whoopee.  Part of the problem with having an aging campus that nobody really knows what to do with in the short term means that you have to pick your battles as far as maintenance and how much money and effort to sink into projects.  I am sure there is an analogy there somewhere for life.  We often operate under the assumption that our life is sacred and we should spare no expense when it comes to our health and self-improvement.  In reality, we have to compromise every day.  Some days you eat a crappy hamburger.  Some days you just hang out watching movies instead of going out for a walk or a run.  Some times you let your kids stay up until 10 pm because it is Friday and you don't feel like going full Nazi on them.  At the same time I have to constantly remind myself that moderation is not an excuse to avoid your responsibilities.  At least it shouldn't be.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

3/5/2017


Day 5:
  Family Day.  Mario was feeling poorly enough we decided to stay home from church.  It honestly didn't take me very much convincing.  It ended up being a crummy day outside but inside we were warm, clean, happy and together.  Not much more to be asked for on a pleasant March morning.  Sophia, on her quest for cooking experience, asked for me to teach her how to make scrambled eggs.  I have a tendency to over explain things.  In a completely unrelated sentiment, Sophia has a tendency to get anxious when I start explaining how to do things.  I realized today that Sophia learns best as I do, through practice and experimentation.  It is not so much that I don't/won't learn from the experiences of others and take instruction well.  It is more that I find it difficult to conceptualize oral instructions.  Practice allows me to take oral/written instruction and contextualize them.  Everything else is just jibber jabber.  I continue to learn more about myself through the experiences of my children. 

 I got a little work done...but not too much.  I don't want to bee TOO efficient.  I still need a long to do list to keep me up at night.  We relaxed a bit and played Monopoly...because Mario likes money and wants to torture me.  Somehow I, the worst person with money in the world, found a way to win.  Then again, if I could figure out a way to make capitalism into a game, I could probably be a rich man.  As it is, a dominating victory over little kids with 35 years of experience playing the game seems a little hollow.  Note to self:  let the kids win sometimes. 

Started thinking about my next brewing project.  I am thinking about making an IPA.  I really have had limited success with IPAs so far.  There is a first time for everything.  I am also thinking about a cranberry hopped cider.  I will follow up when I have made up my mind.

Monday, March 6, 2017

3/4/2017


Day 4:
  Lisette spent the whole day with our friends Chris McLean, his wife Candice, their kids and Teresa Carlton (McLean).  They are getting the home they grew up in ready to be put on the market.  I get plenty of kid time on the weekends, but this was a little special.  Sophia wanted to learn how to bake (I've been on a baking kick recently.)  This may have also been due to the fact that the second and third seasons of The Great British Baking Show just dropped on Netflix.  So I taught her the basics of a gluten free chocolate chip cookie.  There are a lot of great lessons found in one recipe.  She learned about melting butter in the microwave.  There is the concept of incorporating dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately.  I was also able to explain the purpose of gluten in baking and why we use other ingredients such as Xanthan Gum or psyllium husks to recreate some of the functions of wheat and gluten in our GF recipes.  There was basic operation of the oven, how to thoroughly mix a batter and the best practices for making proper measures of dry ingredients.  A lot of info in a little recipe.  I tried to be as minimally involved as possible.  It took a lot of self-control to keep from taking the mixing spoon away from her.  That being said, I had her use a spoon and whisk instead of a mixer.  I thought, "well, she should know how hard it is to do it manually so she can value the ease of mechanization."  I let her go on the scooping and forming.  Everything came out great.  Sophia is getting excited about cooking.  That makes me excited.
  Mario was more excited about spending some time playing games.  He really like interactivity, while Sophia likes independent crafts and outlets for her creativity.  I am not certain yet whether the difference is developmental or traits of personality in nature.  I always thought that Sophia and her sensitivity with her peers at school, resulting in introversion was an outlier.  I have a sneaking suspicion that Mario's quiet nature leads to a degree of social dysphoria.  He enjoys company, but seems at times ill equipped to create a situation in which to find it.  It could of course just be that he likes MY company and wants to play games with his daddy.  I do not begrudge him that in the least.  In fact, I am hoping that it burgeons and I can convince him to enjoy some of the things that I grew to love through exposure by my father.  Hunting, fishing, camping and the like were not really my nature but I have grown to appreciate them.  I think Mario has the potential for that as well.  For now, we will stick to Stratego and chess.  He loves playing.  I know I should probably let him win...but then again...you're a daisy if you do.  And I ain't no daisy.  I ain't no daisy at all.

3/3/2017


Day 3:  I had a day full of missed adventure.  Don't mistake me.  I spoke correctly.  It was not a day of misadventure, but of missed adventure.  I had planned to stop in on the Trump rally which I had mistakenly believed to be on Friday.  It was Saturday.  I made a trip out to the Feed and Grain store but got hopelessly lost so I just bailed and went home.  I had thawed out some nice steaks until I was reminded that it was a Friday in Lent and Sophia and Mario were keenly aware of the fact.  Though I really don't care about the meat on Friday rule/guideline for Lent I figured, why spare them this travesty?  It builds character.  Though I would like to joke that character is a trait which my children are sorely lacking, that would just be patently false.  Still, exercising the old punitive Catholic trope of a god that wants us to suffer with Jesus (the literal meaning of compassion = to suffer alongside) is a timeless work of love.  Love of whom?  I still haven't figured that one out yet.  I strongly suspect that asceticism and zealous piety, though in the guise of love of God are also in some ways a form of self aggrandization.  It makes one feel good and proud to be so well devoted to God.  It also helps prop up the notion that I am a "good" Christian or a better Christian.  I think the same traps in which the faithful accuse the faithless of landing are sprung amongst themselves as well...and in spades.
  So we ate no meat.  Actually, I made cheese pizzas for the kids (from scratch) and a veggie pizza for Lisette (with a GF shell) and I made a meat-stuffed calzone for myself because 1) nobody else eats calzones in my house, 2) you couldn't see if was jammed full of ham, pepperoni and bacon, and 3) My hypocrisy only goes so far.  I have quite a bit of experience with pizza making, but I am always looking for new topping combinations.  This time for Lisette I made a green chile, onion, fresh mozzarella and raw tomato.  Solid.