Friday, June 13, 2014

On Soulmates

You hear a lot of talk about soulmates, how there's someone out there for everyone. Personally, I'm not a fan of the classical view of soulmates. The idea that there is only one person out there for you and that such a person is a fated lifelong companion for you seems kind of foolish to me.  People change over time, and in that time, so do their souls, their relationship needs, and even their lifestyles.

When I was first starting college in September of 2006, I was sure I had found my soulmate. We clicked on every level. 6 months later, we were planning our future for the long haul. We were engaged, we had definite plans in our career paths, planning for a life together. In September of 07, tragedy. My future shattered, and her future was no more. We never even had our first anniversary. Under the traditional view of a soulmate, that would have been the end.

 In April of 2008, I joined the US Navy. I had never planned on it, but failing grades and a life adrift moved me into that decision. I wasn't really planning on making it a career, but I wouldn't have planned against it either. Fast forward roughly 3 years and I met my beautiful and amazing wife. We now live happily married, saving up to move to a place of our own, while I work at a grocery store and we save what we can.

When I graduated high school, it never even entered my mind that I might, just 8 years later be raising two children, and planning to start a business. And that, in a sense, is my problem with the classical idea of soulmates. Our lives, and through extension our souls, change over time. As I see it, soulmates are not an eternal thing, we need different things at different times, and each change informs the next. Had I not had the situation with my first soulmate, my path never would have led me to my wife.

Our souls are ever-changing, ever-growing. We need certain things at certain times. At some times, we may even need to go it alone; for if we settled for the next best, we might miss the best when we're meant for them, all because we were trying to make it work with the knock-off. So, we must live our lives to the fullest, take the hits and roll with the punches. You never know, you might be destined for a story similar to mine. You may need to experience great loss to push you into your greatest gain.

 *Dedicated to my wonderful wife. May our story continue for many years to come.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Importance of Proper Translation

Warning: some crude references may be used in this post.

Phil Robertson is under fire yet again for something included in a sermon he gave on Easter. The part in question is quoted from a Newsbusters report as follows:
Is homosexual behavior a sin?,’ the guy asked me. I said, 'Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don't be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor the idolaters, nor adulters, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers — will inherit the kingdom of God.' I gave him the rest of the story.
This is one of the problems I have with our obsession with creating "easier to read" translations of holy texts. The Hebraic term from which homosexual is so often translated is more properly translated as "effeminate". Effeminate is an adjective used to describe behaviors of a man which are womanly in nature. In a biblical sense, this refers to a man taking a woman's place in society. Lest we forget, in a biblical sense, a woman's place in society is in the home, raising children, and teaching other women, not owning property, leading churches, or leading communities. Exceptions to this do occur in the bible, but if one pays attention, in each case, the woman in question was either unmarried or a widower with no male children, hence she was head of household, therefore being taken as a man in all legal senses until marriage/remarriage.

In all my years, I have never once found any reference strictly to homosexual sexual relations within the bible. In fact, the closest reference to homosexual relations of carnal nature is the line "thou shalt not lay with a man as he would lay with a woman." In fact, the only part of homosexuality forbidden by the bible is sodomy, which, I may remind you (crudely) one does any time one receives falatio or conducts anal penetration. Furthermore, the line which Phil quotes includes drunkards, adulterers, and most of all fornicators. Fornication, in biblical parlance, refers to any sexual acts without the intent of pregnancy. Therefore, following the verses being referenced, heterosexual relations with a woman who is no longer of childbearing age, or relations in which contraception are involved are also banned.

The bible also teaches that lusting after a woman to whom you are not married is commission of adultery in your heart. Therefore, you are also prohibited from not only premarital sex with your fiance, but also sexual desire of your fiance, let alone such desires with a woman to whom you are not betrothed. So, finally, I submit this, according to the passage quoted, if you have ever had sex out of wedlock, including masturbation; if you have ever lusted after a woman to whom you were not married, or if you have ever cooked for your wife, you are just as sinful as a homosexual.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Respecting the Beliefs of Others

Today is Easter, and this is going to sound like a rant. For that, I apologize, but I feel the content needs to be said. I am truly at wit's end. Every Christian holiday that rolls around, people feel the desire to preach to me, try to turn me from my "heathen" ways. To this, from this day forth, I say STOP!

 My problem is not with your allegiance to your faith, or even your desire to share it. My problem is with your overt hipocracy. For these same people that choose to "share" their beliefs with me refuse to allow me to share mine with them. You live in deliberate ignorance of any ways not your own. As I see it, the refusal to listen to others and their beliefs does not indicate anything but the weakness of your own beliefs. For if you refuse to retain an open mind on others beliefs, it displays to me that you are fearful that another's beliefs might make more sense than your own, causing a crisis of faith.

 In the end, all I ask is that you treat my beliefs with the same respect that I do yours. I don't stop you on your way to work and look down upon you for not believing the same as you, I don't push my beliefs upon you and ask you to spend time away from your family to come to my services. But above all, I don't presume to take the place of a deity and condemn your soul to eternal anguish simply for disagreeing with me.

I remain ever-willing to discuss religion, the meaning of life, the nature of the soul, and other religious topics. From this day forth, however, I will no longer accept being preached to with contempt and disrespect.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

On Creation

Every religion has a creation story. Everything has a beginning. I last wrote about a debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham about the conflicts between evolution and creation. I think the biggest problem is that the concept of this debate completely throws out religions other than Christianity. This led me to want to describe my views on where the universe comes from. My belief states that everything has a soul. Everything has life. Everything. This includes the universe itself. But where did it come from? Why does it seem to be tailored to life as we know it.

Quite simply, the reason that the universe seems to be tailored to life as we know it is the same reason that an apple tree produces apples. As I see it, and some scientists have been working with a similar theory, this universe is a product of a multiverse, a multiverse that is constantly trying to become stronger. Different qualities are tried, and productive universes go on to produce more "daughter" universes. It very much ties in, in my mind, to the idea of the World Tree. Our universe only appears to be tailored for life as we know it because it happens to sit on a very fruitful branch. It is even possible that we happen to be on a less fruitful branch. The point is that our branch is alive.

Our universe is alive. Over at Big Think, they have this nice photo. It's in an article about fractals and complexity. Basically, it's about natural patterns repeating on scales we can barely comprehend. What is clear is that there appears to be some sort of overall structure. Think what you will of various religions and their stories of world trees, but the structure of the universe clearly gives me the idea of something sprouting.

 The basic concept here is this: The universe is alive, it's creation was birth. Galaxies give rise to black holes, which are baby universes of their own. The universe seems to be tailored for carbon-based life because those same conditions for the creation of carbon are also vital to the propagation of black holes as we know them. As with any living being, the universe is host to numerous other life-forms that would not be able to exist without it. Just as E. Coli is a bacterium that lives in the intestines of gut of people and animals, so too do we live within the dark recesses of the universe. We may not be bacteria, but we pale in comparison to the scale of the universe.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Kevin Ham Debates Bill Nye: Creationism vs Evolution

My wife and I chose to watch a recent debate (found here in Standard or High-Def) between Bill Nye (of PBS fame) and Kevin Ham, CEO or Answers in Genesis, a museum which puts forth one of a few different interpretations of Genesis. Specifically, Answers in Genesis bases its message on literal interpretation of the Bible, that the Earth was made in 6 24-hour periods, and that the world is just over 6000-ish years old. (There is a specific number that gets thrown around, but every year, by definition, that number will rise by 1, hence my comfortability with vaguery.)

In this debate, many points were made by Ham, and some of them quite valid, but I want to share a few specifics of where I disagree. First, he constantly points to a difference between Observational and Historical science. Observational science is the actual science, verified by observing the world and experiments and such. However, he then points to Historical science and basically says that it is a religion of itself. I've heard this one before, and it's used all the time in the debate over the teaching of evolution in schools.

Basically, the crux of the argument is this: I have determined your "historical science" is a religion, and therefore you must also teach mine, or you shouldn't be allowed to teach yours either. There's a problem with this. Historical science, as Ham refers to it, is based on the idea that I can observe Event A, occurring in conditions B, following the natural laws of physics C, that have never been seen to change on their own. From this key point, that the natural laws of physics have never been seen to change on their own, those who carry historical science as fact (which Ham views as belief), one can infer that since the laws of physics have never been observed to have changed, that they don't change without some outside (of the universe) impetus.

He then goes on to make some other points, including "pulling the race card" by citing a comment in the report of the first coding of the human genome, which states that all of the worlds people are definitively "of one race, the human race". (Inherent in this is the old ploy of "if you don't address this, you're scared because you oppose it.") From this he concludes that such is evidence of Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, and Biblical Genesis. The problem with this is the fact that he is ignoring several other research studies, Neanderthals are known, we have frozen bodies of them. We also have "Lucy" as well as specimens classified as Homo Erectus, Homo Habilus, and many others. These, are the scientific predecessors of humanity. No scientist has been taken seriously in the last 30 years purporting that the different ethnicities are separate species. The current belief is that there are multiple species whose interbreeding led to what we call Homo Sapiens, the human race.

Ultimately, the problem is that the Creationist model of Christianity relies on the view that everything in history and science is fundamentally unstable, and that the natural laws which have never been observed to change just suddenly became what they are roughly 6000 years ago and then haven't changed since. This is something that I just can't see how it is can be reconciled. Why do we have evidence of an expanding universe of at least 13 billion years of age, why does all the experimentation we have done on the accessible solar system hold to roughly 4.6 billion years of age. As Bill Nye put it (I'm paraphrasing), if you want me to believe your worldview, why should I when it involves throwing out such a large section of what has been observed? More to the point, why should the Creation story of Christianity take precedence over all other religions' creation stories?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Take Only What You Need

"Take only what you need." It is a sad truth that humanity cannot function in modern society taking this fully to its literal meaning. If one were to try to only use a few trees on their land to build a small home that could shelter them from the weather, you'd be thrown out for nor paying your taxes. Rather, what I mean by this phrase is that we should do our best not to waste.

A lot of energy went into growing that tree from seed to spruce, simply throwing what you didn't use to build with would be a disservice to all the time, the decayed animals whose bodies fertilized the soil, the animals that made that tree their home, and too numerous other relationships to mention. So, when chopping down that tree for firewood, don't throw out all those splinters, use them for kindling, use small branches to carve out jewelry or cookware, the options are near limitless.

The same goes for animals. I may not have much use for deer entrails, but plenty of animals do. If I am using my own land to hunt them, I'll field dress the animal before taking it home to butcher for meat, allowing the wolves and other predators that would have normally been the ones to eat that animal some recompense for taking their meal from them. Starving another to feed myself is inhuman. Even then, when I get home, I take the meat, prepare it for storage, and then use the bones for bone broth (more so with turkeys and chickens than dear, it's a matter of size) or tools or ornaments. A leg bone for instance can usually be salvaged for use in furniture or cookware, and boiling the bone sanitizes it for safe use.

Even in more day-to-day situations, you can still do a lot to minimize waste. I love to eat the seeds in cucumbers, tomatoes, and green beans, they're packed with vitamins and minerals. Some people, however, don't like to eat those seeds. That doesn't mean that you can't still utilize them instead of throwing them away. Planting those seeds can yield you a few plants, which you can use to grow more, saving you money and giving you the satisfaction of growing your own food. You can even sell those plants to people depending on where you live and what the laws are.

Beyond these ideas, there are many other things that can be done, including tanning of hides for use in making leather, or the twisting and drying of stems and vines to make ropes and such. Scrap strips of leather can be used for tie-downs or even hair ties if you're feeling rustic. When you set your mind to doing all you can to eliminate waste, you'd be surprised at just how much of the natural world can be recycled to minimize what you take.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Spiritual History

My wife tells me she has been sending some readers my way, and that many are looking for what it means to be a self-proclaimed shaman. Looking back at my first post, and the lack of further posts for over 9 months, I think it's time for me to give a little better introduction to the system I follow.

First, let's get to the basics. Shamanism has been defined by pop-culture (mainly video games) in the last few decades as being a group of individuals who speak to the elements. While some cultures' historical practices of shamanism fall along this line, it is by no means all-inclusive. The best way for me to describe shamanism is a path of spiritual development which views all objects of nature as having souls. These souls are not necessarily souls in the traditional Christian sense, but rather that everything is alive and has the right to live. Along these lines, I do my best not to kill anything for the sole sake of killing. A main rule of how I live my life can be summed up by three phrases: "Take only what you need", "Use to the fullest", and "Do not kill except to avoid killing." In the next few weeks, I shall go into these three topics in depth. For now, a little background on how I found the path to my own little corner of shamanism.

I was raised a Christian. I grew up a true believer. I went to church and left feeling empowered by the words of the pastor's sermons, ready to face whatever the world threw at me. And yet, by the time the next week rolled around, I was sullen. I would see the world around me and wonder how these Godless people functioned without my form of spirituality. Eventually, around the age of 15, I started to become aware of the way some Christians treated non-Christians and began to inquire. I would confront people on how they believed and how they could live their life in a way that wasn't in line with my beliefs. Eventually, I realized that the God I had been raised with was not one I wished to follow in the manner he was being represented by his followers. I did not want to perpetuate a culture of "How do you live without Him, everything is from Him, and if you don't believe in Him you will burn for eternity in hell."

For quite some time, I was a firm agnostic. While I didn't necessarily ascribe to the non-existence of some higher power, I was firmly against the concept that any one deity could make a world so vast and diverse and yet, somehow, not be followed by all cultures in a near-identical manner. Around the time that I turned 21, I came to the realization that I was spiritually empty. So I went looking for something to believe in. After dabbling in Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, the Nordic and Greco-Roman pantheons, and even a little bit of Islam, I came to the conclusion that none of these paths had what I was looking for.

As a Christian, when I left church, I was empowered, I was filled with spiritual energy. But before the next week's service could come, I would feel depleted. So my search was one for a way to fill this particular void. But I wanted to do it in a sustained manner. I tried prayer for months, believing that maybe all the churches had it wrong, and that all I needed was to follow God personally. The sense of spiritual purpose was still missing. I started meditation. It did some to fill up that void, but it was still lacking, it had no focus. And so, I came back to my heritage, as part Native American. I looked at their beliefs. I studied them. And yet, it still didn't give me that connection I was looking for. What it did give me was a greater understanding of the world around me. It gave me that connection that I was looking for. That connection to the world around me, that connection to everything that nature had to offer. That everything in the world has a soul.

And that is how I came to the path of shamanism. The understanding that everything in the world is connected, and that we all must work together in this world, or we shall all lose it. It is our job to guard this world for ourselves and for our children. As such, it is our job to not only live, but do so in the least threatening way we can to the world around us. For all the world is alive, and if we don't respect that living nature of the world around us, can we really respect ourselves?