My imagination. My emotions. I was born with more of each than most men have in a day

My imagination. My emotions. I was born with more of each than most men have in a day. They just about destroyed me on more than one occasion. I spent a goodly period of my adult life suppressing them, dulling them, and violently forcing them to stay stuffed in an imaginary nether region of the mind.

By denying my imagination and my emotions when dealing with others, I developed a way of being that could only be described as surviving in the modern world.

I got by.

I was never fired, but I was rarely promoted. I finally found a woman who would sleep with me, and I remained mostly in a relationship, but I was always looking back in time at the great loves I’d found and lost in fantasies.

I didn’t know how to interact in social situations to a degree that would enable me to get past the stage of polite, platonic friendships. Once I renounced the life of making friends solely due to the drink, I found it almost impossible to get properly in sync with my eye contact, body language and words in order that I might forge more lasting friendships with those around me.

I didn’t have a career to speak of, but I did better than many in our economy who were struggling to find their next job. I built up a skillset around technologies related to doing business on the Internet, which remains a useful one to have, but it’s not the kind of skillset that will make you into a manager of people, much less a Director or VP.

On more than one occasion, I’ve read passages from the great thinkers who argued in favor of Man using Reason, because why would God give Man Reason if He didn’t want Man to use it? These were written in times like the Rennaissance and Enlightenment, when the Church still had a chokehold on everything we did. The Modernists came to see the limitations of Reason, and argue for the need of men to tap into something more primal and of the gut.

But, emotions and the imagination, when taken as most of us perceive them to be at face value, remained mostly in the domain of women, children, dreamers and crazy people. Poets, artists and musicians could dabble with such, but too much time spent with the emotions and imagination would render a man effeminate and/or insane.

The Eastern schools of thought sought to strike a more effective balance between the feminine and masculine, and keep one whole by recommending ways of being where both forces are not denied.

Of course, I need to recognize that I can’t go back to being twenty years old again. I’ve learned too much about the world to successfully wipe almost twenty years of real-world education away in favor of dreaming again of a fantasy life where I am able to meet and have deep conversations with truly open-minded, tolerant people in every single coffee shop I enter.

My take on the state of the world tends to be one of sheer pessimism with a streak of hopefulness that I will be proven dead wrong about the fate of mankind. Do I want me or my children (or even my grandchildren) to end up in a world like the one in The Road or The Book of Eli? Of course not. But, how do I put a stop to a destructive culture and deeply polarized mindset that pervades our country and seeps out into the rest of the world?

I’m never completely sure that I’m right about anything I say. I’m a human, after all. I’ve received imperfect information from questionable sources, and carry about a highly fallible memory inside me. I seek systems of thought that are absolute and all-encompassing as I grow older to have a bedrock of reassurance to rest upon when I become close to death. I want there to be an exacting God who hands out punishment using a razor thin, binary decision rule: you either accepted my son as me in the flesh, or you did not. The end.

Except, then I go out into the real world and find that such an exacting, judgmental God in all likelihood does not exist. I’ve had enough experiences, personal ones, that I could never be an agnostic or an atheist. Even if I hadn’t had these experiences, I find their schools of thought to be much like the aforementioned violent suppression of the emotions and imagination.

I would tend to think that if we do remember anything of this life when we die, and we are permitted to take it with us into another life where we have the opportunity to “get it right” again, then I would say that such memories are like housed in the emotional places of our being, rather than in our intellectual ones. Which is why I would love to discover a true taxonomy of the emotional states of being and knowing–some kind of way of systematically classifying those vague things we call moods and feelings and making them more distinctly visualized.

I would love to be able to have control over my imagination and emotions without the need to take some kind of chemical substance at times. I still require the assistance of alcohol and antihistamines most nights so that I’ll wake up in the morning not completely bowled over by anxiety for all that the coming day might throw at me, and all of the problems left unsolved from the previous day.

I would like to make more things that become as stone or earth

I would like to make more things that become as stone or earth, and fewer things that look and last like air or fire. I could be happy with a middle ground of flowing like water, but I’m thinking that I don’t have the purity to pull it off. You could be pleased if the thing you create breathes, but if it is so breathy that it can’t exist outside of an oxygen rich environment, it will surely die with the times and trends that take you down and make you back into mud.

You need to be something that will survive the short news cycles. Oh, and I suppose I should reiterate, though I’ve said it elsewhere, you need to be the very thing that you create. You need to choose a typeface like Garamond, instead of Helvetica, because sans serif is modern and ephemeral.

The times we live in praise things and beings that are short, sweet and to the point. But, don’t mistake the simplicity that is fully realized in Zen and primitive art for the crude swipes at canvases in cold museums, and the 150 character tweets with clever hashtags. These shall surely pass, and a more sensible race will supplant us. Homo Sapiens are destined to reach a dead end on the evolutionary path and be remembered much the same way we remember Homo Erectus or Neanderthals.

Can you be quiet and simple, and simply satisfied with a way of being that doesn’t require millions of pounds of grain and gallons of water and fuel to sustain you?

Can you buy secondhand clothes and wear them for decades?

Can you let a year pass without buying a new car or computing device?

On God and drugs

So I woke up Christmas morning late. I must have slept around nine hours. I felt rested for the first time in like a year. I’ve been reading about the Tao and some Buddhist texts again. They are resonating with me more so than the Bible. The Bible is hard. It says a lot of things that don’t make a lot of sense. Even Jesus himself often refuses to speak in plain, straightforward language. His disciples or the pharisees ask him a question and you can just see him rolling his eyes before answering.

Which is not to say that Buddhism isn’t full of its own collection of difficult koans and deities and worlds that can be completely baffling. But, for whatever reason, I can walk away from reading a Buddhist text and feel at peace with myself and who I am in this world and the next, and walk away from the Bible almost always feeling at unease.

Sometimes I find it easy to compare religions to drugs. To say they are like opiates for the masses is to generalize them beyond any understanding of the effect they have on people.

For example, Judaism is like a primitive wine or beer that merely had the effect of intoxicating people gently. Sometimes it might compel them to be rowdy with their neighbors, but it never turned the Jews into efficient killing machines the way Christianity did. Christianity is like a liquor distilled from that wine or beer, and as such, the effects of drinking liquor often make a man more violent than if he simply drinks beer.

Islam, too, seems to be some kind of refined drug. Perhaps it began as a beer or wine and is still much the same when the jihad is one of the heart, but once distilled or crystallized, Islam is a sharpened sword.

Buddhism is like marijuana. Only in extreme cases does someone get violent with marijuana, and it usually happens when they are already mentally unstable to begin with, or they’ve smoked pot with something else. How many wars have been waged by kings who were wielding the words of Gautama Shakyamuni as their moral imperative to conquer the people living around them?

The animist religions of indigenous peoples are like tobacco or coffee, peyote, mushrooms, or coca leaves chewed straight from the plant. They might give a shaman of the tribe the visions required for them to do well in battle, but these religions were never enough to organize these people and convince them to go off in large numbers to conquer the world. They merely got high enough to go kill their immediate neighbors.

Then, it becomes relatively easy to see the newer religions and cults as being like designer drugs. Scientology is like ecstasy or maybe more like bath salts, depending on who you talk to.

So, what then, is atheism? Atheism is perhaps the drug-free life when an individual chooses to live as such without interference from the state. But when atheist dictators rise up who wish to purge all practitioners of faiths, then atheism becomes like a drug prescribed by big pharma, a Prozac or a Paxil.

The history of the human race practicing religions, or not, and how we set our expectations for what religions our neighbors should be practicing, seems in some way tied to the drugs we’ve taken since we first ate a plant or drank some grape juice gone bad and felt good afterward.

Of course, people rarely try to force other people to enjoy their chemically-induced experiences they way they almost always seem to want to impose their religiously-inspired experiences on others. But, it would seem as if the relationship we have with our mind-altering substances has in some way evolved in parallel with the relationship we have with our otherworldly deities. Would our God, as he’s more or less envisioned by most monotheistic believers, be a different god had ways of distilling wine and coca leaves never been discovered? Or, would we have a monotheistic deity at all if we hadn’t discovered a way to ferment stuff to get high, and only had the plants we grew to chew and smoke?

I would like to make more things that become as stone or earth

I would like to make more things that become as stone or earth, and fewer things that look and last like air or fire. I could be happy with a middle ground of flowing like water, but I’m thinking that I don’t have the purity to pull it off. You could be pleased if the thing you create breathes, but if it is so breathy that it can’t exist outside of an oxygen rich environment, it will surely die with the times and trends that take you down and make you back into mud.

You need to be something that will survive the short news cycles. Oh, and I suppose I should reiterate, though I’ve said it elsewhere, you need to be the very thing that you create. You need to choose a typeface like Garamond, instead of Helvetica, because sans serif is modern and ephemeral.

The times we live in praise things and beings that are short, sweet and to the point. But, don’t mistake the simplicity that is fully realized in Zen and primitive art for the crude swipes at canvases in cold museums, and the 150 character tweets with clever hashtags. These shall surely pass, and a more sensible race will supplant us. Homo Sapiens are destined to reach a dead end on the evolutionary path and be remembered much the same way we remember Homo Erectus or Neanderthals.

Can you be quiet and simple, and simply satisfied with a way of being that doesn’t require millions of pounds of grain and gallons of water and fuel to sustain you?

Can you buy secondhand clothes and wear them for decades?

Can you let a year pass without buying a new car or computing device?

So I woke up Christmas morning late

So I woke up Christmas morning late. I must have slept around nine hours. I felt rested for the first time in like a year. I’ve been reading about the Tao and some Buddhist texts again. They are resonating with me more so than the Bible. The Bible is hard. It says a lot of things that don’t make a lot of sense. Even Jesus himself often refuses to speak in plain, straightforward language. His disciples or the pharisees ask him a question and you can just see him rolling his eyes before answering.

Which is not to say that Buddhism isn’t full of its own collection of difficult koans and deities and worlds that can be completely baffling. But, for whatever reason, I can walk away from reading a Buddhist text and feel at peace with myself and who I am in this world and the next, and walk away from the Bible almost always feeling at unease.

Sometimes I find it easy to compare religions to drugs. To say they are like opiates for the masses is to generalize them beyond any understanding of the effect they have on people.

For example, Judaism is like a primitive wine or beer that merely had the effect of intoxicating people gently. Sometimes it might compel them to be rowdy with their neighbors, but it never turned the Jews into efficient killing machines the way Christianity did. Christianity is like a liquor distilled from that wine or beer, and as such, the effects of drinking liquor often make a man more violent than if he simply drinks beer.

Islam, too, seems to be some kind of refined drug. Perhaps it began as a beer or wine and is still much the same when the jihad is one of the heart, but once distilled or crystallized, Islam is a sharpened sword.

Buddhism is like marijuana. Only in extreme cases does someone get violent with marijuana, and it usually happens when they are already mentally unstable to begin with, or they’ve smoked pot with something else. How many wars have been waged by kings who were wielding the words of Gautama Shakyamuni as their moral imperative to conquer the people living around them?

The animist religions of indigenous peoples are like tobacco or coffee, peyote, mushrooms, or coca leaves chewed straight from the plant. They might give a shaman of the tribe the visions required for them to do well in battle, but these relgions were never enough to organize these people and convince them to go off in large numbers to conquer the world. They merely got high enough to go kill their immediate neighbors.

Then, it becomes relatively easy to see the newer religions and cults as being like designer drugs. Scientology is like ecstasy or maybe more like bath salts, depending on who you talk to.

So, what then, is atheism? Atheism is perhaps the drug-free life when an individual chooses to live as such without interference from the state. But when atheist dictators rise up who wish to purge all practitioners of faiths, then atheism becomes like a drug prescribed by big pharma, a Prozac or a Paxil.

The history of the human race practicing religions, or not, and how we set our expectations for what religions our neighbors should be practicing, seems in some way tied to the drugs we’ve taken since we first ate a plant or drank some grape juice gone bad and felt good afterward.

Of course, people rarely try to force other people to enjoy their chemically-induced experiences they way they almost always seem to want to impose their religiously-inspired experiences on others. But, it would seem as if the relationship we have with our mind-altering substances has in some way evolved in parallel with the relationship we have with our otherworldly deities. Would our God, as he’s more or less envisioned by most monotheistic believers, be a different god had ways of distilling wine and coca leaves never been discovered? Or, would we have a monotheistic deity at all if we hadn’t discovered a way to ferment stuff to get high, and only had the plants we grew to chew and smoke?