Letting Go

My resolution for 2017 was to publish something.  I failed to meet the deadline.  But this past February, I finally did submit my first manuscript for publication.  I had been working on this paper since about August of 2015, when it began life as the opening chapter of a book.  The last little bit of work was easy, and yet so difficult.  I had put a lot into this project, and a psychological block was preventing me from closing this chapter and moving on. I finally did.

Then, I took some time off.  I kept writing daily.  But nothing specific, and not very imaginative.  My mind needed a break.  I needed a break.  Sending off the manuscript felt like victory, even though I can’t really celebrate until it is published.  It has been two months, and I haven’t been rejected, yet.  My fingers remain superstitiously crossed.

One of the things preventing me from blogging more had been this paper.  I needed to finish it before I could say anything meaningful here.  Until it is published, I can’t really discuss it in detail.  But this manuscript was a personal thesis.  The more I put into it, the less there seemed to be to say here, until it was done.  Blogging about this unfinished project felt self-defeating.  Why?  I would ask myself.  Am I writing for this blog when I could instead be finishing one of my dream goals?

Now that the work is behind me, I have had a chance to re-orient.  The thesis is finished. Now I want to test it out.  I want to challenge how we see religion.

My parents raised their children Catholic.  I began life quite devout, but with a burning desire.  I wanted to understand my world.  I wanted to understand my faith.  Originally, when I began this journey, I began with the assumption that my faith was true.  This is what I had been taught as a child.

For years my mother defended Catholicism as ‘the one true faith.’  How could this be the one true faith?  I would ask.  How do you know which version is true Christianity?   I have met Protestants who steadfastly proclaimed that their own versions were true, and who condemned Catholicism as everything from misguided to the work of the devil.  I would ask them the same questions.  How do you know that your beliefs are true beliefs?  I could never get an answer that made sense.  People defend their faith in many ways.  I was looking for something rational.  When I realized that there was nothing rational about it, I let go, and my faith fell away.

Letting go of my faith was perhaps one of the most important decisions of my life.  It forced me to confront my own spirituality more directly.  I was changing my thinking by challenging my assumptions.  I wanted to be able to defend my words.  This meant discarding indefensible beliefs, in order to speak truthfully.

Significant Finding — The Interbrain

The Science section of today’s edition of The Telegraph features a story about how a form of  ‘wi-fi’ connects human brains.  This phenomenon is known as The Interbrain, and is based on the research of Professor Digby Tantum, a clinical professor of psychotherapy at the University of Sheffield.

Reading this article helped fill in some blanks on my own theory of culture, and how it manifests within people.  I would like to develop a paper, after putting finishing touches on a different (current) thesis, that comes at this very same idea from a different angle.  I already believe that we are wired together, and I have a lot to say on this subject.  This only confirms some of my suspicions.

If you have not read today’s article from The Telegraph, do so.  It helps to explain aspects of our social nature.  Here is a passage I found particularly pertinent.

Prof Tantum believes that the communication between brains may happen as an ‘inadvertent leak’ and it may be linked to smell. Areas of the brain which have the most activity of neurons are located in the prefrontal cortex, and are linked with smelling. They also are situated where they follow the gaze.

Our social nature may be linked to smell?  I am willing to go out on a limb with a detail of my own theory.  I think the word ‘may’ is not necessary.  But in order to explain this, I will have to first explain how similar we are to social insects.  In my younger days, before i lost my strength, I was a beekeeper (among other things).  I had the chance to study bees, and later ants, up close and personal.  Those experiences have remained with me.  I look at human behavior through a lens formed during those years.

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I have not abandoned my NaNoWriMo project.  I have only set it aside for the time being.    When i finish the project i started 36 years ago — only days from doing so — I will have more time for that, and this blog, and maybe talking about some things that Professor Digby Tantum is introducing to the world.  His ideas allow me to begin discussing my own.  Many of which bleed over into spirituality and its various forms of religious manifestations throughout history.

Have a wonderful day.

 

 

Discovering Death

Two days ago I was exploring the Bolin Creek Trail.  I wanted to photograph ‘autumn,’ but in the forest I am drawn to fallen and rotting trees.

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I got onto my knees in front of this stump and stuck my camera into the holes in the wood.  Seeing through the view-finder was impossible.  I couldn’t maintain the necessary posture.  So I just snapped about a dozen photos, pointing the camera at the bottom, at the top, and so forth from the entrance.  Outside, scrolling through images on the camera, I couldn’t recognize what was in this photo.  But after viewing it on my computer I was surprised and pleased that I went to the trouble to get on my knees.  Do you see it?

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There is a dead bird attached to the wood.  A bird or a bat.  I don’t know which.  The skull of the animal is almost dead center.  A foot is visible in the upper right portion of the image.  It appears to have just died and decayed there.  Perhaps on a cold and stormy winter night.

A new direction

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What I originally envisioned as a book has instead become a project to occupy me until my death.  Instead of a book, I have decided to begin publishing papers and articles.  The last few years left me with a lot of time to think about what I wanted to write.  I have so much more than a simple book.  Eventually, (hopefully), a book will come.  But my goal at the moment is to stir the cultural pot.  I seek to challenge conventional religious thinking.  I am convinced that Christians and Muslims see the world incorrectly.  I am convinced that for many, faith has become an obstacle to thinking.

Without rationality, we are socially controlled by a dynamic system of opinions.  Without knowledge to compare with our beliefs, we cannot know whether our opinions are actually true.  A correct understanding of the world allows to make correct decisions.

My goal is to marry rationality with our collective spiritual practices, by challenging the idea that Christians and Muslims speak for God.  I am an atheist who believes in God.  My goal is to demonstrate that within Christianity and Islam, a false understanding of God is being taught.

A hell of a week. A wonderful year.

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This week my furniture and belongings were moved from my apartment to my new pad.  A home I found in a fantastic location.  Close to everything I daily frequent, yet on a quiet wooded dead-end street.  My home is surrounded by pine, oak, and something I will share after I learn its identity.  When I bought the house I had to have a deck built to replace a porch that was never designed to hold a power wheelchair.  That project is mostly completed.  I am waiting on a county inspection before the deck and ramp can be finished.  After moving, my apartment happily suffered a disaster.  The night after my furniture was moved, I went back to the apartment to plug in my chair.  I can’t keep the thing at the house until the deck is done.  The next morning (Wednesday this past week), I went back to the apartment and found between 50 and 100 gallons of water in the living room.  It came pouring from the ceiling in the kitchen during the night and migrated into the living room rug.  Squishy squishy.  I reported this immediately to the landlord.  They drug their collective feet in addressing the issue.  By that afternoon, the apartment was smelly smelly.  That evening I wrote a letter demanding to be let out of my lease.  By the Friday evening, my wish was granted.  I am grateful I don’t have to pay those last two months on an empty apartment.  Although I am an atheist, it is moments like that which leave me feeling that maybe an angel does have my back.  I also had to get a new tire put on my van.  I had a slow leak that turned out to be a nail in the inner sidewall.  The picture above is of one of my two cats, Sylvia.  A year ago this is how she felt between our first and second moves.  This is how I feel now, after the third move in a little over a year.  Maybe I can finally settle down and share what I am up to.

How do I know Thee, father?

As a former Catholic with a more naturalistic understanding of the world, I have long suspected that many Catholics, maybe most?, must have priestly ancestors.  There was a scandal in my own community that was kept hush-hush when I was a teenager.  A priest had become a real father with a girl from the church.  She was my age, +/- 1 year.  No one talked about it.  Years later my mom brought it up.  For some reason, we didn’t discuss these things as a family while they were an actual threat.  Ah, but that is the Catholic way.  We were kept ignorant by our own inability to speak about sexuality without feeling shame.

Now we have strong evidence that children fathered by Catholic priests is a worldwide phenomenon.  Thousands of people around the world have strong evidence that they were fathered by priests.  They are pressured not to speak about these things.  Why did I leave Catholicism?  Because the ideology does not allow for open and honest communication about things that matter.  Plain and simple.

 

Two Symptoms of the Same Problem

In Saudi Arabia, the 14 prisoners who were condemned to death for attending a pro-democracy rally have had their death sentences upheld by their ‘justice system.’  The prisoners have been transferred to Riyad, where executions are typically held.  Now they await a royal decree that the executions can take place.

In Davis, California, an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric named Ammar Shahin gave a sermon this past week during which he prayed for the death of all Jews.  Why?  Because, in his mind, this is what Allah wants.

Mr. Shahin and the Saudi judicial system are guilty of the same flawed thinking.  They both believe that God ordained the violence in their hearts.  He did not.  They merely have dark hearts.  Neither party speaks for God.  And neither speaks for Islam.  I keep hearing that Islam is a religion of peace.  But I cannot see peaceful intentions in praying for the death of Jews, nor in the execution of people who simply want a voice in how their government is run.

Islam has to change.  It is unimaginable that a hatred for Jews, or the execution of these prisoners, is something that God would want.  Ammar Shahin.  Saudi judges.  Why are your hearts so dark?  Why do you stand on the side of evil?