|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Monday, September 15, 2008
Consider The Jesus
David Foster Wallace hung himself this weekend.
Back in 2005, he spoke at a university and said:
[L]earning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliche about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.
Although he hung himself, it's still a pretty damned interesting quote.
I'll get back to a piece of that in a second, but speaking of choices we make in our adult lives, I made the mistake of playfully chiding my godmother about shirking her religious obligations to keep me in the fold, as I am now an atheist.
Naturally, there is now concern for my immortal soul.*
*Not that there wasn't before, mind you.
On my mom's wedding day, the plan was to have the small wedding party meet up with the officiant and photographer at the beach. The officiant, however, was late. I came up with the brilliant idea that with access to an iPhone, I could become ordained over the Internet in a matter of minutes. Problem solved! My mom shot that down immediately, with a not-really-a-joke joke that she didn't want to be married by an atheist. I recounted this conversation a little later to the godmother, and gave her the playful tweak that she wasn't doing the job correctly if this is where I ended up.
A week later, I get an email. I replied to that one politely, with the whole "I can't imagine if there was a God that he'd refuse to love you because you didn't believe while here on earth," and "We all have gods we don't believe in, I just believe in one fewer than you do" tropes, hoping that would settle it.
I got another one, which I'll try to hit here point-for-point:
OK, so you're comfortable where you are at. That's a start. So what kind of atheist are you?
The kind that doesn't believe in god?
I don't know much about it, but I hear that there are 2 or 3 different kinds of atheism. Tell me about what draws you to it.
Nothing, really. And I mean, "Nothing. Really." I don't believe it is a choice to which one is drawn, but a conclusion to which one arrives when he is unable to be truly nourished by mythologies. And, if there are "2 or 3 different kinds of atheism," here they are:
1) The kind that believes there is no god
2) The kind that believes there is no god, and thinks religion significantly contributes to the ills of society (and to some of the good, but mostly the ills)
3) The kind that believes there is no god, contributes to the ills of society, thinks you're a retard, and thinks the "opiate of the masses" statement holds a lot of truth.
I'm #2, by the way.
As far as the idea of religion goes, there are many paths to the same end. Religion is the path, not the end.
Religion is "a" path. And there is no single "end."
It's the end that's important. How you get there is up to you.
Actually, I'd argue that it's not important. I'd argue that a life of quiet peace ends, well, quietly and peacefully, but not necessarily with importance. And, yes, how I choose to get wherever "there" is supposed to be is entirely up to me.
If you wish to be accounted for in the end, then you will be, no matter what "religion" you have followed, or not followed.
This is true, of course, but only because the Mormons baptize the dead.
It's what's in your heart that qualifies you. I choose to believe in the teachings of Christ, but those who are following Buddah are just on another path to the same end.
I choose to believe that metaphors and allegories can be helpful towards formulating one's own ideas about ethics and morals, but aren't necessarily valuable to be adopted as wholly true and infallible.
The vindictive God is not mine. I think those ideas are planted in people's minds to keep them in line. Having grow up Catholic, we both know how that works.
Just so we're clear, I was never an altar boy.
I also believe that you have to cut through all the man made crap in religion and find what is true for you.
Funny, that's exactly what I've done.
I read a book (new age) that talks about dying. It goes on to say that when you die, your experience will be just as you envision it to be. If you think angels will come to get you, then they will. If you think you're going to hell, you will.
Reminds me of the whole "Prosperity Gospel" thing, where you just have to feel like god wants you to be rich and Republican, and you'll receive of his blessings.
You make your own reality.
There had better be bacon.
You will recognize souls who were important to you in life and converse with them.
What if I'm the first one to die? I'm totally going to be stuck with Grandma Horswill, aren't I? I won't eat her tuna casserole, not here or in any life.
Ultimately, you are joined with the Supreme Being and are enlightened and grow "spiritually".
Again, I was never an altar boy, so I'd know nothing about this sales pitch.
Then you go out into the world again in another dimension with another body and continue your quest for perfection.
Do all those guys with 300 games to their credit get to stay joined with the Supreme Being?
You repeat this over and over again, without end. Each time, you perfect yourself even more. Who's to say this isn't how it works?
Or, when your earthly body ceases to live, your energies are joined in a sort of spiritual slurry with the rest of the intangible energies of the universes both known and unknown, and your energy becomes part of a massive codex of all known accumulated knowledge, experience and emotion that eventually gets harnessed and used by seven-bladdered space aardvarks to fertilize their lawns. Who's to say this isn't how it works?
What I'm trying to say is that our view of God shouldn't be quite so narrow.
What I'm trying to say is that our view of god can't possibly be defined with any remote form of accuracy or truth, so perhaps the simplest explanation as to "his" existence is actually true.
I really don't think He is in human form, but perhaps we see Him that way because it's what we know. And the ideas painted in the Bible of St. Peter's Gate, God's Throne and Hell etc., - I think they are more of an idea than actuality to help our human minds. I prefer to think of God or the Supreme Being, or whatever you want to call Him, as an aura of goodness, the Author of Life, and we tap into that power He/It emits. I believe that our thoughts shape our life, and we can bring things into and out of our life with our thoughts.
Okay, that last sentence of hers is worth discussing.
Getting back to DFW, here's the first part of that quote again:
[L]earning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.
Now, far be it from me to try to say that my "choice" of atheism is because I am a deeper thinker or more "conscious and aware... (of) what (I) pay attention to," but there's something to that whole "construct meaning from experience" part that worth mentioning.
People who construct meaning from Jesus have effectively chosen not to find meaning in experience. In fact, they are choosing to use their imagination (or, the shared imagination of the community with which they choose to identify) to define meaning in imaginary intangibles.
And yes, I do mean imaginary. It's perfectly okay to believe that the ten commandments provide a pretty decent idea of what's not okay in polite society, and it's perfectly okay to believe in the gospel of peace preached by Jesus, but when we start edging into "there's a guy who lives in the sky who cares about me personally" territory, that's when you lose me.
Thoughts do shape our lives, but when one chooses to float free of reality and tether themselves to flights of fancy (e.g., you get to be reunited with everyone you know in heaven, but only if you believe with all your heart), one's ability to "exercise some control over how and what you think" is given over, in part, to faith.
Faith in what, exactly? I have a difficult time not getting a little bit flippant when "the path" and "perfection" and "the next life" are bandied about, simply because there's no such thing. Religion isn't evolving, it's simply becoming easier to swallow. A believer wants certain things to be true, and resists traditional Catholicism, for instance, because he wants certain things to be false. Convenient, then, to resist Sinners At The Hands Of An Angry God for Joel Osteen's Jesus Wants Me To Own a Yacht here in the 21st century.
So why, then, is a believer any more believable because he chooses to throw the yoke of Jonathan Edwards' firebrand and swallows something that tastes a little better? Jesus has a plan for you, and it's to know that the Mormons are wrong, and so are the Adventists? That heaven and hell are less Dante and more Little Nicky?
Here's a trivia question: When, exactly, did The Bible cease to be the primary source for belief?
Answer: As soon as the first equivocator figured out eating shellfish and pork tasted fucking goooooooood.
There are any number of reasons I can give that outline why I cannot take religion seriously as a personal choice, but let me get back to the idea of "exercising control" over how one chooses to apply one's ability to think. Believers with passion tend to have an incurious curiosity, in that "the path" seems so obvious to them that they see those who deny the existence of said path as either a novelty or a project - usually the latter. Exploration of ideas that don't align correctly with faith isn't something given consideration, it instead turns into a vanity project as to how best to steer discussion back to the inherent possibilities of spirituality. After all, if one can accept that spirituality is a possibility, then what does one have to lose accepting it as truth?
Well, we can start with curiosity. How about beauty in chaos?
Maybe, just maybe, the most important thing I'd lose is self-respect. I realize this is a big universe with nearly infinite possibilities, and I fully accept that there is nothing that truly exists outside the realm of those possibilities. So yes, a magical and all-powerful being who cares about us individually and collectively and sent his only son to die on the cross for all our sins, only to resurrect and ascend him into heaven isn't truly impossible.
Just infinitely improbable. I have a far, far better chance of seeing the transcription to the 2010 BG/Kim Kardashian sex tape becoming a New York Times best-seller than god has of being real.
And therein lies my reason. Infinite regression to zero probability may as well be a zero probability, so a consideration of that probability that requires a full-faith (cough) investment in its assumption of truth is way past my ability to reason. I just can't get to that point. Can't see my way there, and don't see any good reason to struggle to do so, as any attempt to find my way to Jesus is going to result in the most serious suspension of disbelief I could possibly muster.
God doesn't exist. Just doesn't. Sorry.
Alright, so thanks for sticking around. I realize the above may read like a disjointed ramble, and for that, I apologize. I spent pockets of free time (maybe twelve to fifteen five minute bursts) putting my thoughts together, and I just hope it's coherent. For sticking around, here's a pic of my new kitchen. The whole place is pretty sharp, I'll have to tell you all about it soon.
And yes, I did write something specifically to push a paid post down a spot. Whee!
Here are some poker tips for someone who needs to brush up on their skills because they haven't played poker in a while, as well as a great starting foundation for new poker players. A good place to read some further poker strategy is at Wikipedia, with some great links to follow.
Have Patience - This is the number one golden rule in poker, especially when playing poker online at online poker sites. If you don't have patience in poker you will find yourself with no chips very quickly. Poker is designed so that you will want to play as many hands as possible and be in the action every time. The best poker players know that being selective with your starting hands and playing tight is a winning strategy that can save you many problems later on in the hand.
Bluffing Is Only Part Of The Game - Many beginner poker players with iron fists and cannon wallets will come out bluffing hand after hand after hand. This is a very flawed strategy for a couple of reasons. Firstly, many poker players simply cannot be bluffed off of a hand that they like (especially at online poker sites). They will call you down no matter what the bluff is and that's a type of player you will run into quite often. They are called "calling stations". Another reason you can't bluff your way to victory everytime is because eventually you will simply run into a monster hand and will lose yet again. Bluffing is an important part of poker but the most important part about it is knowing when to bluff and being selective.
Learn Tells - Learning a player's poker tells is one of them most devastating ways to crush an opponent. If you know what they do when they bluff or have a really strong hand, there really is no way for them to beat you short of miracle luck. Watch closely the hands, eyes, neck and pulse of your opponents as well as any other nuances. Mike Caro is a poker tells master and his book on the topic is the creme of the crop for poker tells.
Don't Play Over Your Limits - Many great poker players in history - many known, most are not, have gone in over their head on one or more occasions and got absolutely killed. It's not always that a player couldn't handle the skill level at that limit. Often times in the very high limits skill level doesn't change a whole lot from one to the next. Unfortunately in poker, and especially in the fast paced games at online poker sites, you need a big enough bankroll to handle swings caused by bad luck, and that's where playing out of your limits can really hurt a persons roll.A few bad sessions and you may not even have enough to play the previous limit you were at before.
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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