Wednesday, December 31, 2003

"The Grim Man," a story I recently wrote for my Creative Writing class, has been posted in the Storytime! section of Glenn Song's Paradiseworld. In the archives, you can also find "War's End," a collaboration between myself and my most dear friend Amanda, as well as some of her own work. Feel free to leave feedback in the guestbook here, in addition to Glenn's site.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

For a moment, if you will, close your eyes to the flashing lights. Shut your ears to the inevitable carols in their innumerable renditions. Put away your wallet and look away from the wrapping paper.

Where did all this come from? Why is it all here? Why all the rush, and light, and noise? Why do we sing of sleigh bells in the warm, rainy capital of California? What are all these relatives doing on our doorstep? How much did we just spend?

Did anyone have to tell you that it was Christmas? And did you sigh when you realized how soon it was?

I pray, for everyone, at least one moment of silence, in which you can ask yourself, "what's behind all this?" I don't have to tell you the answer.

And I pray that the truth, the reason that this day is on the calendar in the first place, will bring you hope.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

(and now, a bit of melancholy in the form of prose poetry.)

But those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
-Isaiah 40:31 (New International Version)

I remember when my love called me Angel. (it seems long ago, but it was not.) As now, I was no radiant being then. My best guess, and hope, is that in my arms was some security. Safety. That I was less a threat than a guardian. Perhaps that is why she called me Angel. Whatever the reason, I loved the name as I loved her.

Since, the word has floated past me, sometimes toward me, perhaps a few times. Angel. Each time, I remember holding my love as though I sought to keep her. She has not called me that in these few years. Angel. If that is what I am now, I have one wing at best. Perhaps I always have. Certainly, I have always borne wounds from the same demons I seek to protect my loves against.

It seems that, even in my most radiant days, I have always been a man with paper wings. So often, I want to be more. What can a man do? Angels fly. Angels strike with divine swords. Angels appear when they are needed, alight with strength. Angels deliver judgement. A man sees an angel and trembles.

What can a man do?

If I were to ask she who was my love, she would tell me, as she has before. There is much a man can do. I have heard the proof whispered thank you, or I love you. I draw in these words as I draw in breath or water. I feel them as I feel the warmth of light. Without them, I begin to panic.

Angels depend on the Lord alone. Men should, but do not. My idols are her smile for me, her head on my shoulder, and her hand in mine. The Lord has made these things good, but He has not made them God. The angels remember this well. Too often, I forget.

I want to learn. To love and not possess. To serve expecting no payment. To desire, and not receive. Humbly. Peacefully. Until I can do these things, I will remain a dim sort of angel. A man in a costume. No less an emissary of God, but less obvious. Less consistent.

I hope that someday my wings will not longer be paper, but cloth.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Why I Like the Shooty-Shooty:
A Nod to the Violence Aesthetic

So I was walking through this mall in southern California, somewhere around Santa Monica, I think. I’m looking around, and I see all these walkways and staircases, nice clean panes of glass, and a nice fountain down by the pretzel stand. And after a moment’s consideration, I realized what a great set this would be for an action movie. Plenty of places to jump from, things to land on, glass to shatter, what have you. I could see men and women with automatic handguns running back and forth along the bridges, taking cover behind potted plants, and generally laying waste to everything.

Amanda looked over at me as we walked. “Man, this would be a good place for a shootout.”

I turned to her, a lump in my throat. “I love you.”

In later days, we would write stories together. They usually featured fantastic fight sequences, most often involving buckets of flying shell casings, preternaturally agile sword fighters, and feats of athletic prowess only the Shaolin would think of attempting. Why all the violence?

Because it’s freakin’ awesome.

Honestly. Watch The Matrix sometime, and tell me the lobby shootout isn’t at least number 5 on the Coolest Things Ever List. Try watching the dojo fight in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon without saying the words dang, sweet!, or whoa at least once. It’s harder than you think. Find someone who owns a Playstation 2 and play Devil May Cry. I still remember the first time I launched an enemy into the air with a whack from my sword, drew my guns, and juggled the poor shmuck in midair with bullets. I cackled in victory.

Some of you may feel a little queasy. Either you’re reading this in a moving vehicle, or you don’t like the idea of someone finding all this violence appealing. Or both. Whatever. I can hopefully address one of these.

Consider my three examples listed above for a moment. What do they all have in common? The first thing that comes to my mind is this: while the bullets are flying and the swords are clashing, there’s music in the background. Good stuff, too. Respectively, there’s the catchy techno hook of the Propellerheads’ “Spybreak,” a rhythmic surge of taiko drummers, and the hammering guitar rock of Masami Ueda.

I don’t need to remind you that our troops in Iraq are not groovin’ to the sounds of Prodigy as they fight.

All right, my examples have something else in common. In The Matrix, the characters run on walls, do cartwheels while shooting, and kick guns out of their opponents’ hands. Crouching Tiger has our heroine wrenching weapons off the dojo walls, and displaying nothing less than expertise with every one. She also flies from time to time. Dante, our edgy player character in Devil May Cry, wears a bright red trenchcoat, leaps easily ten feet upwards with impunity, and turns into a lighting-flashing, combat-ready demon at intervals.

That is to say that the violence portrayed is, in short,

At all.

That’s why it’s cool.

Friday, October 24, 2003

10 Things I've Learned from Watching Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific:

1) Frenchmen have goatees.
2) You don't spring two Polynesian kids on a girl right away.
3) Bullies multiply and grow strong.
4) Island nookie solves all your problems. Just like crack does.
5) Friggin' Bali H'ai.
6) It's okay to let the girl you love drive a jeep drunk if it's dramatically appropriate.
7) You've got to be carefully taught to hate. (imagine this sung. happily.)
8) Good ol' suicide missions.
9) What piffle.
10) Yes, "hurly burly" is an actual phrase.

Monday, October 13, 2003

This week... what can I say? If I don't stay motivated this week, there will be problems.

I have a movie to make. Time has been allocated tomorrow for the filming process. Editing time is questionable at best. Hopefully, none will be needed: the idea I have could potentially be filmed in one continuous take (but certainly not the first take). The idea fits the one-take format... but could necessity is the mother of invention, they say.

I have a story to write. Six more pages by Friday. I have an idea, characters, a general plot, themes, motifs, something of a setting... just need momentum. Six more pages by Friday. Good ones.

I have a derelict car to dispose of. That needs to happen tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, no less. My friends can attest to my wretched history with cars. This one, I literally can't give away. If it is not gone by Wednesday, my head will be unceremoniously be fed to Koby, our German shepherd. I intend to deny the dog the satisfaction. Mutt.

If today is any indication, I can pull all this off. I did more things today than I've done in the past week, practically. And it feels wonderful.

Lately I've re-realized how laziness can devour my life. There's an African proverb that goes, "Sitting is being crippled." I've often wondered at my more active friends (which seems to be just about everyone), and how much they get done in a given day. Sometimes it genuinely boggles my mind.

I truly hope I can join their ranks soon. This week might just help.

Monday, September 22, 2003

I'm really thankful that God has put into my life the people that He has. Just thinking about how different things could be... for example, the two girls I've dated in the past both broke up with me under rather unfortunate circumstances. Today, they are both cherished friends. It's not just that we don't hate each other. I love them, and they love me. I can confidently say that. Some friends of mine can't even look at their ex-girlfriends without clenching their teeth.

And my family. It 's painful to see how many of my peers have deep, abiding problems with their parents, especially their fathers. But I know my Dad loves me. Mom too, without a doubt. I know not everyone can say that with certainty... which is why I'm so thankful that I can.

My friends continually teach me things about myself. Particularly, that I need to be more patient with people. Heh. Love you guys. Thanks for being patient with me, when you have been.

*virtual group hug*

Sunday, September 14, 2003

For a thrilling recap of a conversation I recently had with Crwuidth (while I was feeling strangely adversarial), check out News From The White Room.

...tomorrow will more than likely spawn a very interesting post. I shall wait, though, until the events in question transpire and become public knowledge. Or, well... until they transpire.

(9/15 update: never mind.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

A couple friends and I were out and about late one evening, about to head home. One of my friends asked if we could stop somewhere to could pick up some condoms – he had run out. I frowned. My friend was unmarried, and therefore, as far as the Bible is concerned, should not be having sex at all. So, I said no. With a similar frown, my friend spied a gas station behind us at the corner, and asked if I would at least wait for him if he got some there. Succumbing to decency, I nodded. A moment after my friend had left to fetch condoms, my other friend who was along asked about what had just happened. “He’s just going to get them anyway,” he noted.

I was ready for this. It’s an excuse I hear often. It seemed to be true enough in this situation: even in my refusal to help, my friend was on his way to getting what he was after. My refusal, it seemed, had been at best a futile attempt to delay the inevitable. So what was the difference?

The difference was me. I explained to my inquisitive friend that I would not support my sexually active friend, and so involve myself. I would not bear the burden for any part of his sin. Similarly, I had previously declined to take another dear friend of mine to get cigarettes. I loved him too much to help him do anything to hurt himself. The situation was much the same.

My friend returned quickly from the gas station. “They’re out,” he reported. At that, I took them both home.

If you ask me to help you do something that I think is wrong, no matter how passive my part may seem, I should refuse. It is not at all necessary, and not in the least justified for me to take part in another’s sin. I have enough of my own to worry about.

Monday, July 21, 2003

No, you’re not hallucinating. I have actually updated my blog. I’ll give you a second to recover from the shock.

All right, then. Part of my excuse for not updating in some time (the only remotely relevant part) is that I have been travelling these past two weeks. I spent some time in Seattle with my best friend, which was wonderful, and later went to San Diego to attend Comic Con 2003. There was a particular incident there I’d like to share with you… well, perhaps confess would be a better word.

I must first say that the Con was amazing. I had the opportunity to meet and pester several of my favorite artists, and meet some new ones. I’ve set up links to a few of them in my links section. Many of the attendees came in costume, myself included.

There was a girl among them, the top of whose costume was merely two wide strips of tape, made to look like suspender straps, covering her breasts. That is to say, covering a three-inch wide strip of breast each.

Who came up with the idea that a woman’s nipples have to be showing in order for it to be considered nudity?

Every time I saw her, I made a point of looking away. Unfortunately, male eyes reflexively move toward bare skin and tight clothing, so the image won’t be leaving my mind any time soon. It’s true, by the way. The thing about the eyes moving reflexively. I’m not making this up. It’s an automatic process that I frequently have to fight. It’s not to blame for all lechery, to be certain, but it does happen. Something to keep in mind, ladies. I for one am trying to fight the impulse, along with a lot of other guys, but it’s tough. You have to be very conscious of things. Case in point… read on.

On the second to last day, I was walking along with a friend, when I was stopped by a young woman. She complimented me on my costume, and I thanked her. Quite suddenly, I recognized her as the girl. I hadn’t realized who she was at once because she was wearing clothes at the time, more specifically a small blue tank top which may or may not have actually been a bra. Ironically, as I recognized her, she turned around and said casually, “Oh, could you undo me, so I can be in costume too?” I was confronted with a tiny white clasp and a ton of implications. Even as I considered saying no, my hand moved to the clasp and slipped the two pieces apart. “Sure,” my mouth said, and the implications hit me. The girl turned back around, and I looked away. Our conversation continued a few phrases more, which I have understandably forgotten, and we went our separate ways. My friend must have thrown me one hell of a smirk, but I didn’t notice. After a moment’s consideration, I realized what my next blog post would be about.

I should have said no. It could have been quite awkward, but I should have said no. Why? Her costume was among the most distracting, lust-inspiring, degrading things I have ever seen. I was disgusted, and I told my friends as much when she inevitably came up in conversation. I wasn’t disgusted with her, mind you, but with what she was doing. What she was wearing. I don’t know her. But I know what her breasts look like. That is a tragedy.

So what, you ask? Someone would have helped her out, anyway. It’s not like I could have stopped it from happening by refusing. That much may be true. But I had the option of not involving myself at all. Further, I had the opportunity to make a stand, to say “no” to something which was wrong. And I missed that opportunity.

I still can’t get the image of that girl’s chest out of my mind. Sadly, I barely remember what her face looked like. There are perhaps hundreds of men, young and old, thinking back on Comic Con and not even trying to remember her face. That’s what disgusts me the most. Her body was a weapon of distraction and temptation for so many of us, whether or not she meant it that way.

To the girl, and all those who laid eyes on her... I’m sorry. I’ve done you an injustice. I should have said no.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Anyone who thinks I've been slacking off on blog updates would do well to check my Guestbook. I've changed it so that the newest posts display last, so that the EPIC DEBATE therein is easier to read.

So there.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

One of my contemporaries has posted his thoughts to my guestbook. Here is a copy of the entry:

"God is an interesting concept and all. But, in the end, he is extremely illogical. Therefore, to prove my point, call upon the powers of time and space...ah, scratch that. To paraphrase the immortal Douglas Adams...God is nothing without faith, and the majority of humans beings need proof in order to have faith. However, there is no need for faith in light of faith beacause the proof makes faith moot. Therefore, God's response is "Oh, I hadn't thought of that" and he promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

"On a more serious note...I think that the being Christianity thinks of as God, on one level of thought, is God. However, on another level of snetience he maybe interpretted as a series of natural occurances of anomalies of nature that resulted in the big bang and the creation of Earth. For some, God DID create Heaven and Earth....but George Burns saids it best: "When i woke up this morning, the Trojans were still fighting." So, my point is that all points in and of themselves are valid intepretations of our existance, what is 'real'? To paraphrase Morpheus:
What is real? How do you define real? If real is what you can taste touch see or feel, then real is merely a series of electrical signals interpretted by your brain.

"Reality is shaped by our perceptions. And sadly, a person who has already 'made' their decision to "think in a box" has just limited to themselves to that one train of thought and are immediately biased to infinite array of possibilty. I do not deny the validity of your point of view...however, I think because of your view you deny everyone else's point of view by default.
That's what infuriates me about religion. Only oneperson is right and the rest should be burned or converted. If your 'god' was so benevolent, why didn't he get off his cloud and save the condemnation of millions of innocent lives because of the inhumane brutality of groups hunting "different' peoples? Or what about the thousands of Crusaders who sliced up the infidels in the name of the Grail? How benevolent is a lord who preaches for his childeren to convert people regardless of whether or not they want to listen? If they come to be it. But I am disgusted by the arrogant preaching of even the most kind hearted and decent souls of our planet...I turns my stomach everytime I'm forced to listen to the holier than thou and "well I know where I'm going when I die" responses to every argument that can be mustered?

"I do digress. In short, I think that Christianity is a valid way for people to cope and bring order to the insane tendencies of I'm not going to debat the nuances of a life preserver compared to buoy while I cling for dear life in a howling gale. I do think, however, you are one of the most decent human beings I know, so please take no offense to my ranting.
On a lighter note, is Reverand Lovejoy of the Simpsons telling the truth when he says; "technically, we're not even supposed to go the bathroom....." ???? "

I promised that I would respond, and have. Let’s rock.

First, you have terribly misquoted Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The “puff of logic” to which you refer involved not man’s supposed desire for proof, but rather the fictional Babel fish. The Babel fish supposedly proved the existence of God because it could not possibly have evolved. With God thus proven, the need for faith disappeared. And because God supposedly required his believers to believe out of faith and not proof, God could not exist. Even the Hitchhikers Guide, you may remember, reported that people called this notion a bunch of rubbish.

Second, I am thoroughly sick of the idea that perceptions shape reality. Perception shapes perception. What we see, hear, think, etc. shapes our worldview, not the world itself. Reality is real, and perception is how we experience it. This makes perception important, but it does not mean that we cannot be wrong in our ideas about the world. Refer to the truck example in my March 30 post. I would much rather limit my thoughts to what is real rather than letting my mind swim about considering infinite possibilities, undisciplined. This is not to say that I should not think; it means that I should, and hopefully reach a conclusion of some sort. Considering infinite possibilities means considering a lot of garbage, along with the plausible, useful, and generally worth-thinking-about. It is difficult to say where those limits lie, but I will say that I will spend more time considering how to comfort a friend in mourning than I will spend considering whether or not they are real.

I agree that religion is often quite infuriating. There have been many atrocities committed in the name of God. God is not for any of them. Arrogant preaching is not to be tolerated. Holier-than-thou types are misguided. The Crusades and the Inquisition were crimes against man and God. As to a given religion thinking it is the only way to God, consider this: what if it’s totally true? In the case of Christianity, if it is true, then everyone should be converted. Again, if the words of Jesus are true, then it is very, very important that they be told to the entire world. However, no one should be forced to convert. Come to think of it, how could someone be forced to believe something? Ask anyone who has had religion pushed on them what their response has been, and they will tell you a story about rebellion and lasting bitterness. People must make their own decisions about what to believe. According to Jesus, it is merely part of His followers’ duty to spread the word. He tells us to be kind, gentle, and wise about it, make no mistake. Some people (myself most assuredly included) have trouble following those guidelines.

Some people think of religion as a crutch, merely something for damaged people to lean on. In a way, I agree. Only, I say everyone’s damaged, and everyone genuinely needs a crutch to lean on. We need God’s help. Of course, we need to remain thinking human beings while we’re involved in religion.

I can’t recall a single accurate statement Reverend Lovejoy of The Simpsons has ever made about God. But then, maybe that’s the point of the character.

Finito. Ole.

I shall continue my discussion of Christianity from my last post next time.

Monday, June 16, 2003

...made it to the 15th. Sunday. The Sabbath day. That would be a good excuse not to have done it, but I'm done with excuses.

Today should make up for it. Back to Day One, with a vengeance.

It can be said that I am a Christian. When I say that, however, some very bizarre ideas come to some people's minds; notions about Christianity that are amazingly untrue. Today, I offer a basic explanation of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Read on... you may be surprised.

In the beginning, God created Heaven and Earth... okay. That's the easy part. As God created the world, it was good. He made people, and gave them the option to screw up. We screwed up. Shocker. Whether or not you think the stories of the book of Genesis are metaphorical or not, the important point is the same: sin entered the world. Sin is an important concept to understand. It is not, as many Catholic-raised stand-up comics have joked, merely the idea that we should abstain from doing anything fun. Sin is, essentially, separation from God brought on by not doing what He says we should do.

A quick aside. Some wonder why it's such a big deal that we do what God tells us to do. Here's why: the rules God sets for how we should live our lives are not arbitrary, not random. They are operating instructions for human beings. My good friend Brett explains it beautifully, saying that there are two important things to remember about God. First, He knows everything. We're talking about the designer of the entire universe. The author of you. Second, He loves His creation. He wants what's best for what He has made. Those two facts mean that God is much more qualified to run my life than I am. Something to think about.

Back to sin. There is a whole lot of sin in the world. This is because it is part of human nature. In other words, human beings are innately imperfect, or become imperfect quickly as we are exposed to the world. Whatever the cause, one thing is clear: we need help. On our own, we only dig ourselves deeper.

Help came in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, who you know as Jesus Christ. "Christ" was not his last name. The word is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word messiah, meaning "anointed one." The messiah was a figure in ancient Jewish prophecy, said to be the very son of God. Christianity holds that Jesus was in fact the Son of God... more specifically, that He was an incarnation of God, but also fully human. History shows that Jesus of Nazareth lived and taught in and around first century Jerusalem, and was killed by crucifixion at the hands of local Roman officials and Jewish leaders.

Christianity teaches that on the third day after Jesus' death, He came back to life. This is amazingly important. You see, Jesus came to Earth with a specific purpose in mind. Sin had created a rift between man and God that man could not possibly cross by his own power. Ironic, the word cross, since that's what it took to bridge the gap. You see, with sin comes a penalty. This is where the fire-and-brimstone preachers get their ammo. You know the type: "Repent, or burn forever in the deepest stinky pit of Hell where it burns and it sucks to be you!"

Jesus, through his death, took on Himself all of the punishment due for everything wrong the entire human race has ever done, and will ever do. He did this out of mercy and love. His sacrifice has cosmic implications... some of which I hope to summarize next time.

This is a quick-and-dirty explanation, if you haven't noticed. If you are left with burning questions, or merely flickering ones, e-mail me by clicking "contact" above, or post in the guestbook. More soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Every so often, I remember that some people think I'm a writer. Every so often, I think of myself as a writer. This is ridiculous, since I rarely write much of anything. The intermittent nature of the updates to this blog are evidence of that. I can hardly explain the frustration of being a writer who has trouble actually getting things down on paper. The main frustration, I think, is that my lack of output is no one's fault but my own.

Now is the time to do something about it. Eh, let me clarify... the time to do something about it started a long time ago, and has extended since then to the present. In any case, I am now officially committed to write something of substance daily, as though I were... a writer.

With a sense of undue drama, I declare this to be... Day One.

Start your stopwatches, everyone. Let's see how long I can make it last.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

The word "sarcasm" comes from the Greek sarkasmos, meaning "to tear the flesh." How terribly appropriate.

The youth minister from my high school church group described the old phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" as one of the greatest lies taught to children. Until he mentioned it, I hadn't noticed how true that is. Of course words hurt. How often do the scars from sticks and stones heal and disappear quicker than the pain of a single careless word? Careless, mind you: not necessarily malicious or angry. A simple slip of the tongue can be just as harmful as an intentional insult, often more so. least, that's the case for me. I'm very sensitive to words. As something of a writer (and a needy, oversensitive type), perhaps I nit-pick over what are, to others, minor verbal issues... miniscule variances of intonation, dreadfully specific word meanings, and often imagined implications. Others among my friends can shrug off sarcasm seemingly without taking a scratch. I can't imagine myself being able to do that, but time will tell.

Sensitivity aside, it's easy for sarcasm to get out of hand. And it's often easy to tell when that happens... you may be familiar with that moment when, in the midst of some friendly banter, someone makes a comment that's just a little too true, a little too close to home. For perhaps a second there is a thick silence, as though everyone had just gasped and were still holding their breath. Then, depending on your company, one of two comments: either "dude, that wasn't right," or more often, "aaaaaanyway..."

One of the biggest challenges in my life is being careful of what I say. I have a very stupid, eager tongue, which wants to slingshot into the world anything and everything in the DO NOT SAY area of my brain. Ask any of the girls I know. Oi, vey.

To everyone who will speak with me anytime soon: remind me to watch my mouth. I need a reminder more often than I'd like.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Emotions are a funny thing... well, less funny and more infuriating.

For the past few days, I've been in something of an ugly place. A self-centered place, full of depression and apathy. The two usually go together, I realized. And it's fairly frightening sometimes: what does it mean when you're so sad, you don't care enough to brush your teeth? I'm very grateful for the fact that I get that depressed very seldom... which is more than I can say for a whole lot of people.

Depression destroys concern for others, putting everything in the context of what I want. I want rather a lot, including a bunch of things that I may never be able to have, and certainly don't have right now. Depression thus perpetuates itself until I realize that my thinking is futile, driving me only lower. A whole lot of problems come from futile thinking, and also from lack of thinking. Futile thinking means running in circles, the quintessential vicious cycle, going nowhere and accomplishing nothing; merely working the brain into a fever of frustration.

I've come up with a simple mantra to get rid of futile thinking... live consciously.

I keep forgetting. Sometimes my mouth just starts moving when I'm not paying attention, and I end up saying something spectacularly stupid. Sometimes, as I have observed in a previous post, I will waste an afternoon doing nothing, when I could easily have gotten up from the couch and done any of a dozen worthwhile things, had I only been thinking of it.

Be aware of what's happening. It sounds so simple, but is so easily overlooked. How easy is it to just drift through a day, saying what first jumps to mind, following moody impulses and desires, letting the same thoughts spin around and around in your mind? To focus on even one area, like speaking, is an amazing process. After an intensely painful exchange with one of my friends a few months ago, I resolved to discipline what I say. I began to halt my tongue and consider my words before I spoke... it took no small effort, but it was beyond worth it. Now, when I slip, it's easier to recognize. Now, I can preempt and control my speech to an extent that I could not before.

So often, my mind feels like it's burning. Questions, obervations, imaginary conversations running and mashing together in my brain, never stopping to take a breath... but every so often, I can slow the madness by simply looking it square in the eye. Mental discipline saves me from headaches. My brain is always working; if I can think in lines and not in circles, it is worth the energy I spend thinking.

It also really pays to question your own emotions sometimes. As strange as that sounds, it's true. Honestly, a lot of times, what I feel is based on not much at all. I'm a very moody person, and it shows. It's extremely valuable to look at my own emotions and ask, "why?" If there's no good answer, I can, just maybe, take control. If I'm in a deep funk at the time, I can actually start climbing back out. It just takes being conscious of what's going on.

Discipline is really what it's all about. And it starts with awareness. "Awareness," Crwuidth said to me tonight, "is a powerful tool." I cannot help but agree.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

A friend of mine recently said something that disturbed me greatly. I mentioned how good it was to have a purpose in life. He replied that he had no intention of finding a path for his life, because not having a purpuse gave him greater freedom.

In response, I referred him to a narrative essay I wrote in my high school days so long (read: a few years) ago.

On the same site are links to a few of my other writings, also archaic. If you're feeling brave, feel free to check out the rest.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Last time on ...delerium, the dastardly shapeshifter/vampire/space-pirate Crwuidth attacked our hero, the Razorclown, with a brutal brain-bursting barrage! Oh, no! How long can our hero survive? Find out on today's episode...

Smurfie********: Then here's where it gets tricky again.

the Razor Clown: huzzah.

Smurfie********: Does this make right and wrong a function of religion, and if so, are atheists fundmentally wrong, merely by inaction? Also, is our government, which seperates religion from justcice, funamentally wrong by the same tenet?
Smurfie********: Are men, by this tenet, to be judged solely by God?

the Razor Clown: religion has not yet entered the question.
the Razor Clown: men are to be judged solely by God.

Smurfie********: Religion is inavoidable if right and wrong are to originate from God.
Smurfie********: i pose again, are Atheists then incapable of morality?

the Razor Clown: certainly not. atheists cannot isolate themselves from God entirely.

Smurfie********: Ah, then we've violated our definition of Society.
Smurfie********: We have a being that is capable of morality, yet without conscious interaction with our hypothetical God.

the Razor Clown: then the interaction must be unconscious.

Smurfie********: Another possibility that is easier on our definition, is that the interaction can take place in one direction; and thus Right and Wrong are instilled in all men, regardless of will.
Smurfie********: By God

the Razor Clown: precicely.

Smurfie********: Then why are other animals ignorant to Right and Wrong?

the Razor Clown: you know that one.

Smurfie********: Lets have it out anyway.

the Razor Clown: ah. the setup.
animals, as far as I know, are not sentient. thus, they have no need of right and wrong.

Smurfie********: But are animals capable of morality?

the Razor Clown: as far as I know, they are not.
the Razor Clown: or, rather, it does not apply to them.

Smurfie********: Does a mother, regardless of species, protecting her young, even to her own death, not act morally?

the Razor Clown: not necessarily.

Smurfie********: explain.

the Razor Clown: there are other motivations for saving one's young.

Smurfie********: Such as?

the Razor Clown: speculating, i'd say... in order to save them for a midnight snack. or out of instinct.

Smurfie********: Ah, but i said defend to her own death; that eliminates the motive of a snack, and cannot instinctive behavior be moral also?

the Razor Clown: *deep sigh* moral, in my book, has to do with motivation.
the Razor Clown: (Crwidth?)

Smurfie********: Cwruidth

the Razor Clown: (can never remember.)

Smurfie********: This presents us with another dilemma. Is morality a function of intention? If so, is a man who means to stop a murder but cannot's action as moral as a man who does? Maybe? No? Or is morality merely a function of action? Is, then, a man who prevents a murder unintentionally, moral, regardless? Maybe? No? Or is morality a combination of intent and result?
Smurfie********: Is a man who stops a shooter as moral as a man who takes the bullet instead? Even though both acted with the intention of preventing the same harm?

the Razor Clown: intuitively, I say morality is intent and action.

Smurfie********: Then animals are sort of but not quite capable of morality?
Smurfie********: At least until we can know their motives?

the Razor Clown: all things are possible. I may be a cybernetic badger, as far as you know. animals may be sentient after all. so yes, since we don't know for sure, animals may be capable of morality.

Smurfie********: Then why are right and wrong reserved solely for the sentient?
Smurfie********: if we say animals are incapable of morality unless sentient, why?

the Razor Clown: feel free to apply them to those who cannot stop themselves from peeing on your foot.
the Razor Clown: check my blog.

Smurfie********: but a dog can be trained not to urinate in designated places.

the Razor Clown: responses to stimuli, or a greater sense of morality? the world may never know.

Smurfie********: are you implying that housebreaking a dog is a form of moral training, or simply a means to a more convenient end?

the Razor Clown: i'm talking about the dog's perspective.

Smurfie********: Good, i'd hate to see you blaspheme once we've spent all this time on definitions.
Smurfie********: ((That was a joke, in case you feel i'm being confrontational, which i am not))

the Razor Clown: goo.

Smurfie********: But honestly, why should right and wrong apply only to sentient animals, when an animal like a dog is capable of equal or greater loyalty than many people?

the Razor Clown: you just said it. we don't know if it applies to them or not. God will judge the wombats as He sees fit.

Smurfie********: Hm. Next question then. Is it possible for an animal to act morally purely out of instinct?

the Razor Clown: toughie. perhaps it depends on how the instinct got there. just a thought.

Smurfie********: Ah. What instinct then? Surely not those related to food, water, air, or sex. Can we say that it is possible for an animal to act morally by broadening it's survival instinct to include another animal?

the Razor Clown: you can most certainly say that.
the Razor Clown: I am uninterested in animal morality, since it is based almost entirely on speculation.

Smurfie********: But can a human act in the same way?

the Razor Clown: by doing something good, yet not necessarily moral? i think so.

Smurfie********: Wonderful; since that is exactly my definition of morality: The display of interest in survival on a level above the self.
Smurfie********: Even if we disagree on the origins of this morality.

the Razor Clown: ha. fits for most situations, sounds like.

Smurfie********: However, by my paradigm, the definitions of right and wrong source from morality, and not vice-versa.
Smurfie********: By this definition, can you see how i can say that love of country implies morality, Since the individual places the interests of his homeland above his own?

the Razor Clown: i see it, yes.

Smurfie********: ::Bows:: Glad i could explain.

At that, the unlikely duo called an easy truce and went on to eat bagels and practice kung-fu at a local park. The Razorclown is still bruised.
For the rest of the story, venture to the White Room.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

In today's episode, our hero is thrown into a philosophical tumult by the nefarious Crwuidth!
(believe it or not, that's pronounced COO-roo... Gaelic blows my mind.)

Smurf**********: try and define morality for me, right here

the Razor Clown: I like to think of morality as discerning right and wrong and acting accordingly.
the Razor Clown: regardless of social mores.

Smurf**********: Ah, but right and wrong are functions of society.

the Razor Clown: no.
the Razor Clown: no, no, a thousand times no.

Smurf**********: explain how right and wrong can exist to a man who is entirely alone.

the Razor Clown: that's too hypothetical.
the Razor Clown: entirely. meaningless. no man is entirely alone.

Smurf**********: i'll put boundaries on it then. This hypothetical man is not a product of any society, he was never taught any regard for others, he is merely a function of his cerebrum. Can he know right and wrong? If so, how?

the Razor Clown: i've never met the man. find him and ask him.

Smurf**********: Imagine.

the Razor Clown: why should I? what if I imagine incorrectly? i am not that man.

Smurf**********: then why any faith at all? What if you believe incorrectly?

the Razor Clown: I have enough reason to believe. I have no reason to consider this man at present, for I have not met him. I am more concerned with your case and mine.

Smurf**********: By your argument, for example, unless one is God, it is improper to imagine that one understands God's will. Are you thus denying the validity of biblical texts?

the Razor Clown: preposterous. I have seen and read the Biblical texts. I know of no man who is as you describe him.
...pardon me. i will consider him.

Smurf**********: No, i was referring to the argument that non-existence as a subject makes the subject ineffable.

the Razor Clown: lemme see... I'd like to think that he'd have an innate sense of right and wrong, but that's C.S. Lewis talking. and the scriptures.

Smurf**********: where would it come from? Is right or wrong a basic need, like food, water, air, safety and sex?

the Razor Clown: as far as I know, right wrong are largely crafted around our needs as living beings, and as spiritual beings.

Smurf**********: how do they come to be so crafted?

the Razor Clown: *smirk* God.

Smurf**********: ah, but God and a being indicates a society.

the Razor Clown:
the Razor Clown: that's really stretching it.
the Razor Clown: unnecessarily, i think.
the Razor Clown: (one n?)

Smurf**********: i disagree as soon as isolation ceases and interaction begins, there is society, even with an incorporeal partner.
Smurf**********: ((no, two ns))

the Razor Clown: fine. me and God make a society.
the Razor Clown: thus, morality is based on society. but only, only, only... in that sense.

Smurf**********: Excuse me, i was vague. i will define Sociiety as interaction between any subjects that changes one or more of the subjects involved. Will you still accept my argument based on these premises?

the Razor Clown: works.

Smurf**********: Ah, excuse me again. Let me say "Conscious interaction between any..."

the Razor Clown: all well and good. your point is made.

Smurf**********: So you will accept that given such a definition, right and wrong are functions of said society?

the Razor Clown: only given that definition, and only in a very specific context: society being composed of God and the individual.

Smurf**********: i accept, for the moment. May we continue hypothesizing?

the Razor Clown: you may go ahead.

Smurf**********: In the case of an individual and God in isolation (Not necessarily alone, but we will say, from our definition, that the only interactions that affect this individual are his interactions with God), will the individual's sense of right and wrong come from himelf, from God, or both?
Smurf**********: think carefully about that.
Smurf**********: himself, that is.

the Razor Clown: the answer, O Sphinx, is both. if the man did not exist, why would God bother with morality? God is innately correct and right.

Smurf**********: Are you feeling strangled?

the Razor Clown: not strangled, no.
the Razor Clown: I feel like a controversial senator surrounded by flashing cameras and microphones.

Smurf**********: i ask because the word "Sphynx" means "Strangler" in Greek. If you are not adverse to our conversation continuing, then my response would follow thus: My question is not, is right and wrong present with man, god or both. My question refers to the origin of right and wrong. Do right and wrong, as our currently defined moral sense, originate from God to man alone, from man alone, or from both together?

the Razor Clown: hmm. that's a bit tricky.

Smurf**********: that is why i suggest you be careful in answering.
Smurf**********: Unfortunately, the answer cannot be "None of the above" without us changing definitions again.

the Razor Clown: can't it? gimme a sec.

Smurf**********: it can if we redefine right and wrong to be outside of society again, but that makes them immutable by either man or god, which is likely to be distasteful, we can also redefine man to include God, but that presents religious/moral complications. There are surely others, but i can't see them yet.

the Razor Clown: without man (or angels, or what have you), there is no need for morality. thus, the existence of morality would depend on man. however, it is God who creates the morality, crafts it, defines it... not man. man is a part of it, but not the author. that is my answer.

Smurf**********: That would fit the first basic answer.

the Razor Clown: so be it.

Smurf**********: Then here's where it gets tricky again.

the Razor Clown: huzzah.

Will the Razorclown survive this merciless mental melee? Stay tuned for part two!

For a closer look at the Razorclown's assailant, check out his blog.

Monday, April 14, 2003

It’s tough, being stranded. See, my car isn’t working just now, because the radiator is apparently supposed to hold water and not dribble it on the road. And today, due to my tendency to put things down in random locations and forget them, my wallet and keys are across town. This makes it harder to open the lock securing my bike, and get to work. As soon as I discovered my situation, I called into work to let them know I was stranded, and set to work finding a bus route to get to my friend’s house, where my keys and wallet lay happily on the floor. The route was plotted and I was almost ready to leave when I realized I had no money for bus fare and promptly slapped myself on the forehead. After a few minutes, I called another compatriot of mine, who agreed to give me a ride when he had a chance. Thus began the waiting game.

Waiting drives me nuts. Especially waiting in futility. I found myself pacing about the house between fitful, squirming bouts of watching TV, always glancing at the clock. I felt like a shark: as though if I stopped moving, I would die. I felt as though I were being held in place, drowning in time… and I thought to myself, this is why sloth is a sin.

Next to murder, lust and greed, sloth seems like one of those minor sins, like cursing might be. It’s not. Time spent sprawled on a couch waiting for something to happen could easily be spent on a thousand better things… and today I felt it. I felt this strange inner fire, trying to tell me something. Trying to get me on my feet. This isn’t right, it says. Get up. Do something. For the love of God, don’t waste time. Interesting that impatience can be a good thing sometimes. It reminded me that time flees.

I don’t think my situation today was particularly sinful, but it left me thinking about how I spend my time. About how destructive procrastination can be. About how many opportunities I can miss if I’m simply not… active enough. There is a time to wait, and a time to throw asphalt in the air behind you as you run. If I’m sitting when I’m supposed to be running, I may lose my only chance to run.

Sloth, I realized, is a sin because I have no reason to expect that my life will last longer than the next keystroke I type. I have no reason to expect that since I can run today, I’ll be able to walk tomorrow. I can’t control the hypothetical meteorite that could at any moment blast through the ceiling and smash my kneecap to gelatin. To a greater degree, I can control leaving my keys at someone else’s house… but these things still happen.

Here’s a thought: as far as we are concerned, neither the past nor the future exists. The only moment that is is now. Now, I would say, is all we’ve got. We’ll have eternity later. But now is the single place where time and eternity intersect. Think about it.

Tempus fugit.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Bear with me... I'm a little tired, and it's kinda late.

That's probably not the best way to preface an observation of mine, but hey... best to be honest, I suppose. Even if that means a little self-defacement.

I hear people say "that's just how I am" quite a bit. It sounds to me like an excuse. Self-improvement is a big issue for me... quite simply, I'm not content with how I currently am. That's not to say I'm one big heap of self-loathing. That ain't right. I just know I'm not perfect. I dream of being a better person, and when I take steps forward, it feels wonderful. I know I am incapable of reaching perfection, and that doesn't bother me. It's the pursuit that matters.

This, of course, brings up a terribly sticky issue: how you determine what constitutes self-improvement? To what standard should you aspire, by what guidelines should you attempt to live? As I mentioned in previous posts (3/30), I mentioned my waning faith in philosophy, which is especially true of this issue. It's very easy to decide what's good for ourselves... since we know what makes us feel good (read: "feel good for a few days/hours/minutes"). It's also pretty easy to learn that what's good for ourselves is quite often not what makes us feel good immediately. Just ask anyone who's eaten a banana split in under five minutes. Or ever had a romantic relationship for any significant length of time.

It also brings up issues of identity. Are we nothing more than a sum of our urges? When I hear, "that's just how I am," it's usually in regard to being lazy, forgetful, mean, or something similar. Every so often, someone will use the phrase in regard to generosity or kindnesss - which may be a sign of pride - but that's not what I'm talking about. The thing is, I don't see things like laziness and whatnot as truly part of someone's persona. Certainly, they are part of us, but I see them as more temporary.

I see a greater design to the universe, apparent even in people. I believe wholeheartedly that everyone alive has a purpose, a predetermined function, on some level... but that we can - again, on some level - accept or reject said purpose.

It just seems to me that most times I hear, "that's just how I am" sounds like a rejection.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Love is a bad word.

I don’t mean it’s a four-letter word, a curse or something… it’s just not a good word. English is a confusing language, full of broken rules and embarrassing double-meanings; the word love is a prime example.

Consider this: Girl X tells Guy Y that she loves him. What she means is that she feels a deep emotional connection to him, and that what he says to her has a pronounced effect on her mental state. Guy Y responds in kind: "I love you." What he means, however, is that he is physically attracted to her, and that he thinks about her all the time. X and Y smile at each other in that drippy romantic comedy kinda way, assuming that I love you means one thing.

This is a problem.

Even outside of the I love you context, love does not have a solid definition in everyday speech. Primarily, people use it to refer to being in love, the strange, inconsistent array of feelings tied to intense affection. Affection is a much better word for what most people think of as love. However, love has a much more sexual overtone; this is where we find the heart of the problem with the word. Love is sometimes used to refer to nothing more than intense lust, which, in my book, is hideous.

Lust is an expression of desire. It’s a statement: "I want you." It has little to do with the person lusted after, and more to do with getting what you want. What does that have to do with love?

I define the word love thus: concern over the wellbeing of another, or a desire to do what is best for someone. Also, I agree with d.c. Talk: love is a verb. Love is not a barrage of fleeting, up-and-down feelings. Love is what you do. It is manifest in a thank-you card, a hug, a kind word… something real. It’s something you do because you care, independent of your feelings. Love can be both, or either, as I define it: concern, or action. I still use the phrase I love you, meaning specifically that I have a deep, abiding affection for someone. That they matter to me.

Being in love, I think of as a different concept. This is the vernacular love everyone is so worried about – the mish-mash of overpowering emotion which drives people to previously unseen heights, and never-deeper lows. Being in love is the stuff of sitcoms, and movies starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. I try to give it as little weight in my life as possible, since it seems to have more to do with lust than love. It’s a sick world indeed where those two concepts can be confused.

Lately, I’ve found myself clarifying what I mean when the word love comes up in conversation. Try it sometime.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

I am I am, I said I'm not myself / I'm not dead and I'm not for sale.
-Stone Temple Pilots, "Tripping on a Hole in a Paper Heart"

I'm trying to find ways to counter a current philosophical trend. A lot of people have recently (and perhaps, not so recently) concluded that just maybe, all that we perceive is utterly false, and the universe is nothing like we think it is. Think The Matrix. Some people are also entertaining the notion that objective reality may as well not exist, since all we have to work from is perception. That is to say, we may as well act as though our perceptions define reality.

Perception is indeed important. Arguably, it is all we have to go on. Thing is, I tend to belive that reality is real, and will be what it is regardless of what I think of it. My example is this: if you're hit by a truck that you don't believe in, are you any less squished? Someone I know answered "yes" to that question, and I was flabbergasted to the point of inexcusable rudeness.

If peception is that important, I thought, then why is it that "you never see the one that gets you?" Still, my words should have been kinder. I have a tendency to be nasty when I disagree with someone intellectually. With God's help, I'll put that bit of pride to rest.

...lately, I've been wondering about the usefulness of philosophy. Philosophy is based on observation and interpretation, which means it is based solely in the human perspective. Let us not forget how limited our own perspectives are, and how little we actually know about the universe. I do not deny that there is a great deal of useful knowledge out there... but let's just say I'm waiting for the next sweeping change of paradigm to come along in just about every branch of science. I would say that in regard to a lot of the big, important questions, we don't have enough information to philosophize.

That's one area where religion wins out in the search for truth... provided that the assumptions upon which the religion is based are correct. I mean, come on... if you've got facts coming straight from the creator of the universe, you don't have to puzzle out the big questions. So, if you take that route, the problem becomes finding the correct religion.

And yes, as offensive as that is, I think there is such a thing.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Recently, my house received a friendly oversized postcard from our local real estate agent. Both sides of the card were filled with handy conversion tables for cooking: cups to ounces, how many crumbled vanilla wafers make a cup, the tablespooon equivalent of a jigger (jigger?), etc. One side was adorned with a picture of the softly smirking realtor in question, her phone number, and her office address. But a little something occupying the space below all this was what really caught my eye.

It goes without saying that the card was an advertisement, but an advertisement with an attempted personal touch. The truth of the whole matter was summed up by a single phrase, printed in white within a black box, in the lower right corner of the card. It said simply, I'm your neighbor...I want to be your Realtor. A nice, catchy, vaguely warm sentiment. A statement followed by this symbol:

Because nothing says "neighborly" like a registered trademark.

If ever you get sick of being advertised at, check out the "Spoof Ads" section under "Creative Resistance" at Adbusters. If nothing else, they get people thinking about consumerism. And thinking, while painful, is generally good to do from time to time.
There are a few careers that I would really like to have.

1) Fight coreographer. How awesome would that be? I could get paid to tell guys when and where to hit each other, then make them do flips and run on walls. They might let me play on the wires, too, so then I could run on walls. He, he, he.

2) Consultant for cable documentaries. You've seen these people, with their name at the bottom of the screen next to "Root Beer Expert" or "Klezmer Music Fan." Cash for sitting in front of a camera and pretending to be knowledgable. Of course, there are a few things I am actually qualified to speak about: gimme "Roleplaying Conniseur" or "One-Eyed." Then sign the check. Mwahahahaha.

3) Mattress tester. Oh, come on. You know they exist. But they probably have to do more paperwork than I'd like to think.

4) Greeting card writer. I think up one liners on a constant basis. It's only logical that I should write some of them down and sell them to Hallmark so you can sign them in the car on the way to the party and hand them to the host so they'll think you're clever and thoughtful. That sounded more cynical than it should have.

Note that "video game tester" is not on the list. That's because carpal tunnel sucks, and I want to keep what eyesight I've got.
Today's attempt at wit was inspired by the humor of Lore Sjoberg. Check out his ratings of just about everything.

Semper fi, and carry on.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Obviously, the most important thing about a blog is the color scheme of the webpage. That is what I am currently fiddling with.

It is that which with I am currently fiddling.

English is just dumb, sometimes. I mean, look at the word love. When a word has been so helplessly confused as to mean opposite things to different people, you gotta wonder.

More when the colors come together.