The Cost of Fish

The Cost of Fish

Almost everyone has a fish story and it’s usually not about the fish that got away. No, the tale they bemoan is the about the fish they caught or the one they stayed with and they probably should have thrown back. Relationships, jobs, towns they stayed at because they were familiar and they’ve always lived there. These are my thoughts today. Should we follow a whim? Take a chance? And what if it doesn’t work out? And like me, have you forgotten how to have fun?

In most towns, there’s a carnival our kids drag us to. We spend a ton of money to gorge on fried snickers, cotton candy, funnel cakes, popcorn, and we often end up carrying around a couple of half dead goldfish in a clear plastic bag. Junior won them. Way to go little tyke! So here we are in line at the superstore, the cashier’s ringing up your purchases. The tank, food, gravel, and water purifier are all yours for a grand total of $50.00. Charlie, fish number one might live through the first day. You’ve got a decision to make. Buy another fish to replace Charlie or let the whole episode die of natural causes?

Whimsical

Most of us, including me, are not good at taking off on a whim. Quick changes. If I have a hankering for ice cream in the middle of the night, I’ll usually ignore it and go back to sleep. But there are some people I know that would go to the extreme, beyond even the ice cream in the middle of the night. I know a person who if they felt the urge to go skiing, and if there were ski slopes available, would drive across country, just on the whim. They could ski just one day, and be good to go back to work when they came home. And here I can barely get myself out of the house to take out the garbage.

I’m really not talking about goldfish. Life is expensive. Someone once told me, having a car costs. One way or another you’re going to pay for having the luxury of driving. Whether you repair it if it’s used or if you buy it new and pay for its newness. Truthfully all of life is that way. That $50.00 will be spent somewhere, whether you spend it on the goldfish or on pizza. The choice is where do you want to spend it.

My question is, what is this costing me? Every day that I sit and not act on an urge and every time that I suppress a desire to play and I choose to work instead, what is this costing me? Sometimes when you’re just putting up with stuff, you’re only taking the easy way out. If something is continually chafing you in a situation, it’s a good sign that it’s time to change. It might be time to cut our losses and get out.

How much does it cost?
  • Health
  • Happiness
  • Memory
  • Friendships
  • Self esteem

Thanks to Christi for the goldfish inspiration – if you’re reading, you know who you are!

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Apocalypse, Abaddon, and the Spirit of Fear

Apocalypse, Abaddon, and the Spirit of Fear

The one thing that I believe I got right coming out of the religious world was a healthy dose of discernment. Even when I was neck deep in religiosity, I kept the same council as I’m going to bring out in this short blog today. I say short because a truth is simple usually. Once you know the truth of a thing, you stop worrying and get on with your life. When you’re uncertain, as in how to drive a car, you question everything. What if I mess up? What if I’m doing it wrong? When you’re an adult, and you drive to work, you get in your car and you drive to work. Sometimes you drive too fast, but you don’t sit around worrying about checking your brake pedal or your accelerator pad every five minutes.

End of Days – Again?

Know the truth and you will be free. So what’s this big truth? Love. Joy. Peace. I’m quoting the Bible because that’s the book I was given to read as a child, but I know that’s not the only holy scripture that teaches these truths. How do you know if a person is right? How do you know that they are wishing good things for you? Jesus’s disciples asked him how they would know if the other preachers were disciples of him? There were so many people performing miracles at one time it became confusing. His answer was easy, check their character. Not by their miracles, but by their fruit. Checking a person’s character was my first test when I was a child. I was serious as a kid.

True and False Prophets

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-20

Remember Hugs

If you’ve been hugged in the warmest of bear hugs by a grandparent and loved, you weren’t feeling afraid at that moment. If there were any fears, it would only be for their well-being. Love brings with it a sense of satisfaction and safety. Love is my second test.

Love Comes from God

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

So for all of the Christians that are following the Blood Moon fear mongers, STOP. They are selling you a paper bag filled with lies and it’s dripping of fear. I am tired of calming my family down from it.

Those that get off making others afraid – like Tom Horn and even the Christian TV broadcasters like Pat Robertson and John Hagee, they are sick sadists. If you buy into that shit, then you might as well pick up the Sunday horoscope column and follow their advice every week.

The Truth:

Silly Crazy Stuff:

For Sheila, My Cousin, My Friend

For Sheila, My Cousin, My Friend

This post is a short glimpse into a friend’s life.  She was much than this. It’s my attempt to say goodbye to my friend who we lost this last week in a car accident. She will be greatly missed. — Janet

When you’re ten-years-old, life is simple. Everyone around you is an uncle, an aunt, a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, or a cousin. Other than a family member, you are a stranger until you become a friend or a neighbor.

I grew up in a small town. And that small town raised me. Collinsville had only a population of 3,009 by the time that I was ten, by the time that Sheila and I decided to figure out if we were just friends or if we were family now. It was about bonding. It was about how we mattered to each other. And it was important. Who wants to be just a neighbor when they can be a friend? Or a cousin? Only friends and cousins can do sleep-overs or know secrets.

We were at Sheila’s house. We attended school together since forever but something was different. My brother was dating her cousin. I’m not certain of the relations, but at the time we were solemn about this. We had to be cousins, she had decided. We must be cousins. We discussed it around and around and looked at it from both sides of the family tree. Surely we were cousins if my brother married her cousin. It made perfect sense to our 10-year-old minds.

Hours went by and running out of time, we decided that maybe it didn’t matter. That just maybe we’re all cousins or sisters because God was our father. From then on we were friends and family. I remember several times afterward calling out to each other, “Hello cousin.”

Thank you, Sheila, for being my friend and for being a friend to so many. You gave so much love while you were with us. You were the expressed image of friendship and family. Open arms and a warm heart. You are missing from us today.

No Other Name? and There Were a Lot of Names

No Other Name? and There Were a Lot of Names

I’ve called myself agnostic, atheist, and sometimes just not quite sure. But here’s a quote I like that puts it into perspective.

“The Romans called the Christians atheists. Why? Well, the Christians had a god of sorts, but it wasn’t a real god. They didn’t believe in the divinity of apotheosized emperors or Olympian gods. They had a peculiar, different kind of god. So it was very easy to call people who believed in a different kind of god atheists. And that general sense that an atheist is anybody who doesn’t believe exactly as I do prevails in our own time.”  Carl Sagan, “The Varieties of Scientific Experience”

I started writing this piece when the school bombing happened in Pakistan, which wasn’t an entirely religious incident as it turned out. But the holidays happened and I never finished writing the blog and connecting everything. As I went through my writings this week to decide what I wanted to post next, I saw this one and I decided to dot my i’s and cross my t’s as well as I could, and just post the darn thing. And then, more stupidity happens.

Three heavily armed men have attacked a French satirical magazine based in Paris – AlJezeera.com

Cabu died with several other colleagues, alongside the brave policemen who tried to stop the carnage. As the attack took place, the assailants allegedly mentioned their connection to Yemen, and that the “Prophet had been avenged.” – Charlie Hebdo: Are we not allowed to laugh any more?

And now I say that if there is a god,

I hope he/she is at the very least is not a tribal god, either of the sectarian or nationalist version. I hope his name isn’t Odin orThor. Or her name isn’t Freyja, Isis or Hecate. Why? Because these gods are small. They lead small countries and small tribes. If you were not in these tribes you were slaughtered. You were an infidel. Your children were burned, chopped or enslaved. Your wives were raped or tortured. Your crops were destroyed and your houses demolished. You were vermin. Disgusting. Hated. To be stomped, slaughtered, and forgotten. As the old testament states it, the enemy was to be wiped out, to be remembered no more.

If I did find evidence of a tribal god and his existence was proven to me, I could not bow to that god, no matter whether his name be Allah, Jehovah, Jesus, or Ahura-Mazda. My question would be, why can’t you love the kid that lives on the other side of the fence? Is his hair the wrong color?

And what of the Hindus and the people of Nepal? There is even a living goddess. People bring their children to be blessed by this goddess and leave gifts of money or baubles. They have little money, but they give happily. It’s easy for someone who stands on the west side of the world to judge them as deceived as they offer their gifts of money, tokens, or even the blood of goats in honor to their gods. It’s disgusting for a westerner to watch. I don’t like blood. Right? But I just watched the video of the war in Syria and there’s blood bathed bodies lining the streets. Ironically, we would judge saying they are deceived and we are much smarter.

But our god is real, we say

I’ve seen people bring their children forward to be prayed for by pastors. I know that rock star longing to be touched by the visiting preacher. It’s no different. It hasn’t changed from one famous person to the next. It’s been well manipulated in our time and even in times long past.

We need to change some things in this world we live in. Some things need to be off limits. No, I don’t mean the prophet Mohammed. I mean the killing of each other. For what purpose? A drawing? Get real. I used to draw pictures of my teachers. Did they shoot me on the parking lot or the streets of Collinsville? Gun me down?

What can we do?

  • Give to a charity or an organization that helps war-torn nations. United Nations-Refugees
  • Be secular. That doesn’t mean anti-god. It just means, doing something without having to do it in the name of a god. Every time I go to the grocery store or go to work, I don’t pay my bill or pick up my pay check “in the name of my god.” @BeSecular-twitter
  • Speak up when you see injustice.
  • Modify religion. It doesn’t have to be about hate. We all know this. Let’s first check our own hearts for any hatred, then our own religion. Spread love and kindness outwards.

 

Being Chosen, Blessing or a Curse?

Painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme of a veiled Circa...
Painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme of a veiled Circassian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you like it when you get special attention from your boss? Do you want to be the favored son or daughter? Or is it better to fly under the radar? The sad fact of being special or chosen is that it’s difficult to be known for anything other than your trademark. You’re special. You’re chosen.

I was watching the show Reign, on Netflix this past week and although it’s not true to history, I was enjoying it. It showed King Henry’s two sons, Francis and the bastard, Sebastian. Francis had privilege and status and the future betrothal to Mary,  but the bastard was freedom to take chances and explore. Which made me think of other “chosen” types in history. One big one I think of is the people know to be the most beautiful in history.

The Georgian women, from the North Caucasus mountain region in European Russia, are known for their great beauty. So much so, that families were known for selling their own children for the same price as a horse. They sold as their children as sex slaves, as circus beauties, as sultan harems, or whatever else.

An advertisement from 1782 titled “Bloom of Circassia” makes clear that it was by then well established “that the Circassians are the most beautiful Women in the World”, but goes on to reveal that they “derive not all their Charms from Nature”. They used a concoction supposedly extracted from a vegetable native to Circassia. Knowledge of this “Liquid Bloom” had been brought back by a “well-regarded gentleman” who had traveled and lived in the region. It “instantly gives a Rosy Hue to the Cheeks”, a “lively and animated Bloom of Rural Beauty” that would not disappear in perspiration or handkerchiefs. – Wikipedia Circassian beauties

And then there is this blog, which I’ll only show you the first paragraph, but I’m a geek, so I find these things fascinating. I hope you don’t mind.

A Freakish Whiteness: The Circassian Lady and the Caucasian Fantasy

by Gre­gory Fried
Published March 15, 2013

When I first stum­bled across the photograph repro­duced below, over 15 years ago at an antique show, it struck me as ludi­crous, inex­plic­a­ble, and yet also some­how haunt­ing. Per­haps it was the jux­ta­po­si­tion of the young woman’s abstracted gaze with the absurdly wild mass of hair flam­ing around her head. I found a name, inscribed by pen­cil more than 130 years ago on the back of the pho­to­graph, “Zublia Aggolia,” and a title, “Cir­cass­ian Lady.” Even today, I still know noth­ing about Zublia her­self apart from her name, and even that is not what it seems. Despite that, her por­trait has taken me down a path of dis­cov­ery whose con­nec­tions I would have never guessed.

https://i0.wp.com/mirrorofrace.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/zubliamedium4.jpg
Mirror of race

I don’t want want to be chosen. I don’t want to be special. This is good as it is. Ordinary. Regular. Gotta get up on Monday morning and go to work and all of that kinda of stuff. Right. I’ll let someone else enjoy the limelight. That’s why I will win survive the zombie apocalypse.

And if you are really interested in the subject, I’ve included a YouTube video of a black professor speaking about why white people are called Caucasian.

Expectations vs Reality

Expectations vs Reality

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

Expectations are just that, expectations. They aren’t promises or guarantees. We assume we know how life will go. I have heard that women tend towards forecasting in relationships more so than men. We meet a man, and in our mind we’ve got our house picked out along with the names of the two adorable children we will have. When the relationship crashes, we wonder what went wrong. Maybe nothing went wrong. It could be that it wasn’t as perfect as we’d thought. It’s difficult to process the difference between our imaginary relationship or imaginary job versus the one that really exists. We need to be careful to pay attention to what really is happening around us, then we approach life face to face.  Where were you looking when the roof caved in? Did you notice the first drops of rain? Or the buckets on the floor to catch the dripping roof leak? Maybe you were were visualizing life in another town.

So what are we to do? I love to redecorate my house in my mind and our imagination has its purpose. How would we ever make any progress, whether scientific or mathematically? Visualization gives us our map of how it could be. We need to remember where we are right now.

Avoiding magical thinking

But while your intent is pure and your goal is to create magic, the most common mistake is to believe that the marketplace will agree with your good intent and support you. More specifically, that media intermediaries will clearly, loudly and accurately tell your story, that this story will be heard by an eager and interested public and that the public will take action (three strikes).

Or, more tempting, that ten people will tell ten people to the eighth power, leading to truly exponential growth (some day). Because right now, you’ve told ten people and they have told no one…

Only count on things that have happened before, a funnel you can buy and time you can afford to invest. Anything more than that is a nice bonus. – Seth’s blog

 

Pebbles in My Shoe

Pebbles in My Shoe

Some people seem like pebbles in my shoe. I’m walking along and all is fine. Dang it all, but there is something in my shoe. I pull off the shoe and brush out the offending pebble. With the shoe back on I start walking. Until another pebble gets in my shoe. Some days it seems as though life is just a series of offensive pebbles.

There are telemarketers and pushy sales clerks wanting your money. Late fees and long lines. Broken shopping carts and flat tires. If only you could just make them all disappear. These are the minor issues. What about the coworker who talks too loudly or the boss who misunderstands your jokes.

The fly in my ointment, the devil in the details, and the speck on my black pants.

Have you ever noticed that the more you list out the problems and label them as a nuisance, the more they tend to multiply like rabbits in free range? Snow that piles 3 feet high keeps you from driving to work or a sudden rain shower that spoils the ballgame , these can’t be planned for or altered.

From childhood we dream of our life with all the good times planned out in our head, but the path that we walk is our reality. The dream in our head is only a projected course. It’s all possibilities and potential realities.

“Man makes plans, and God laughs.”Yiddish proverb

There are people and events in your life that seem like obstacles. Somewhere between the time we’ve visualized where we wanted to go and when we actually get there, our path dead ends. How do we handle the pebbles? Get over them and keep walking? Or build a pebble wall of I can’t?

Instead of seeing obstacles as a pebble in your shoe, try seeing them as sand in the oyster. These inconveniences are the things that life is made of. The people who annoy you the most are not your enemy. They don’t have to be anything to you. Release the emotional grip you have on those in your life. There is no need to demand they act the way you wish. The anger that keeps you bound to your so-called enemy will only drain you of the energy you need to do more productive tasks. Look at that anger. Can you feel the energy it takes? Let it go and when you feel it again just look at it and let it go again.

Things that happen to us are simply the thing that happens. The pebble didn’t ask to be in your shoe. It didn’t place itself there to jump as you walked along the road.

 

I’m Not Dead Yet

I’m Not Dead Yet

When I first walked away from Christianity, the one thing that scared me was dying. And the no-life-afterwards stance of Atheism. I felt like a child whose Halloween candy had been stolen. I’ve held on to the opinion that Atheists could be wrong. Denial in the first degree!

People like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, have stripped away my belief in a separate soul, so what would be left to carry on after my body dies? Energy particles? It’s taken some time and lots of truth seeking. Richard Dawkins attitude has really helped with my perspective. Yeah, I may not have eternity in white robes, but I can live a full life and celebrate every day right now.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?” 

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

Denying truth doesn’t make it disappear. What happens after I die can’t be prearranged. The events are out of my control. Maybe I’ll be happily surprised with more candy or maybe I won’t. Either way it’s done. Richard Dawkins is right. We are the lucky ones.

The Passion of Hate and Love

The Passion of Hate and Love

There are old relationships that I feel scratching to get out of me, like a chick escaping from an egg. Or maybe I scratch to get out of them and their mental hold. I want to be over them, but they seem to hold on tenaciously, so I’m trying to understand in the best way that I know, by writing. To know someone, know who they love and who they hate. This blog post began as my effort to understand someone.

“I swear to you, then,” said MacIan, after a pause. “I swear to you that nothing shall come between us. I swear to you that nothing shall be in my heart or in my head till our swords clash together. I swear it by the God you have denied, by the Blessed Lady you have blasphemed; I swear it by the seven swords in her heart. I swear it by the Holy Island where my fathers are, by the honour of my mother, by the secret of my people, and by the chalice of the Blood of God.”

The atheist drew up his head. “And I,” he said, “give my word.”

The Ball and the Cross (1909), part II: “The Religion of the Stipendiary Magistrate”, last paragraphs

When I started reading the first paragraph of the G.K. Chesterton’s writing above, “I swear to you, then… swear to you that nothing shall come between us. I swear to you that nothing shall be in my heart or in my head…”  I thought he was talking about love, then he mentioned the sword, “till our swords clash’” and I had to start rereading it in a different context, which made me remember the line,

“There’s a thin line between love and hate. Maybe you’re confusing your emotions.”

Simone Elkeles, Perfect Chemistry

Forgive me for a moment as I share my thought process with a piece of my journal.

Your problem isn’t that you hate so strongly. It’s not that you love so passionately. Your problem is that you feel nothing. And you want to feel it, but it scares you. You’ve turned off your passion because loving something so strongly and wanting it so much makes you a prisoner of that desire and you’ve decided long ago that nothing or no one will hold you hostage.

You once said we hurry ahead of God, like children before their parents. Too excited to stay with the current moment. This was my problem you implied, because I wanted things to happen. I wanted God to move and do his work. I see your waiting and so called patience as not caring, and to me that’s the biggest flaw. To care hurts. We have to be close to someone to care for them. To hate or to love someone means they have power over us. They are the ones who we are open to. We don’t even see anyone but them. These are the only ones we are aligned with, those we love or hate. – JKW

Saddles

Saddles

Ever see a cowboy dragging a saddle behind him? It doesn’t matter how well constructed the saddle is or how long the cowboy has owned it. It could have been in the family for years. Maybe it was his grandfather’s, then his father’s, until finally it was given to him. A saddle is a proud thing to own. Well crafted, hand tooled. I have nothing against saddles, but…

There’s no horse. Faith is like dragging a saddle. Old habits die hard because they’re familiar. And familiar feels right. That first Sunday you don’t go to church feels empty. I felt like I’d missed a step in the stairs and I was going to fall headlong. If you’ve ever noticed, people who have strong beliefs are afraid to let go of them. It’s been in the family for years. Their grandfather was a preacher, their dad a pastor, and they’re a Sunday school teacher. To leave this legacy is like spitting in the face of your heritage. It’s also how you define who you are. Sometimes you feel you’re not special anymore. I know this because I left this heritage myself.

To say I lost my faith is somewhat of a misunderstanding. I walked away. I walked away because I was going through the motions, which I could still do if I wanted. I could walk into church and still teach. No one would know the difference, but it wouldn’t be true. The horse isn’t there and I’d just be dragging a saddle around behind me.