A while ago, prompted by Tiefling's suggestion that we explain a few speculation about our faith, Quizro posted a very nice writeup explaining his spiritual and religious beliefs. Also, Tiefling did a great job explaining Moderate Christianity and, prior to this challenge, drownzsurf had fleshed out his ideals of Christian Fundamentalism. One should understand that even though we all consider ourselves Christians, this does not mean we believe exactly the same things and I would like to take an opportunity explain this a little further and to share what I believe.

I believe in a spiritual realm that exists outside of the spatial and temporal confines we perceive as the physical universe. That is, I believe that heaven exists and that hell exists or will exist. Some Christians believe hell exists and some do not while others believe it does not exist yet, but it will at some time in the future. I believe in spiritual beings that can manifest themselves in our corporeal world, though I do not believe for the most part that they are pulling our marionette strings, manipulating our day to day lives. I also believe that a part of us exists in this ethereal plain and when our physical bodies die, this soul remains.

I believe in one God. If one were to look back far enough, one would find that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all stem from the same source. I think it's rational to assume we all worship the same divinity, though we go about it in different ways. Many Christians (and Muslims at matter) have a very hard time with this, believing that their God is the true God and the other god is the false or dead god. For instance, I do not believe a Mormon prays to a different God or a different Jesus than other Christians. I believe I would be arrogant to insist anyone is worshiping thin air, regardless of their particular doctrinal variations.

It is my understanding that in order for one to consider one's self a Christian there are only a few simple beliefs one must subscribe to. These are: that Jesus of Nazareth was a human embodiment of Yahweh, the God of Abraham; that Jesus died and was resurrected three days later; and that he did all this so that humanity may be forgiven of our inherent sin. These three things are hardly ever disputed amongst Christians and even though any theology that extends beyond this is pretty irrelevant to one's spiritual salvation, wars have been fought over these trivial conflicting interpretations.

I do not put any faith in organized religion, traditions, or dogma. These are things created by men, not God. Over the last two thousand years people have corrupted Biblical teachings to fit their own personal agendas. Christianity is not about killing, torturing, or simply disliking non-believers. Quite the contrary, it is about love; love for your neighbor, love for your enemy. I find it interesting that so many miss this concept, but the majority of Biblical teachings talk about getting along with other people, tolerance. When Jesus was asked to sum up all the law with just one law his answer was to Treat others the way you would like them to treat you. This truly does sums things up.

I believe the Bible is a collection of historical accounts, poetry, and spiritual lessons that were written and compiled by men but inspired by God. Some believe because the Bible was written by men it is imperfect and a word for word interpretation is unrealistic and one must seek the messages it contains through study. Others believe that because it was inspired by God the Bible is infallible and its messages can be found simply by digest. Personally, I believe a little of both.

I was raised in an Evangelical Pentecostal denomination called the Assemblies of God. I have been baptized and have taken communion. Also, Pentecostals believe someone can be filled up with God which instills a type of euphoria sometimes referred to as being drunk on God. When this happens people can begin speaking in tongues, a weird sort of gibberish, which Pentecostals consider praises to God. Though I no longer claim any denomination, I still believe in being filled with the spirit of God.

I do not believe any person is holier than another person. One could scour the Bible and never find the world holier, only holy and holiest. For instance, I disagree with elevating the Pope or Mary the mother of Jesus to a pseudo-godlike status. Also, I have met many arrogant preachers who see themselves in a higher regard than their congregants, as if they have some sort of pipeline to God that the others do not.

Finally, all of this, some of this, or none of this could be false but it is truth to me. That's the beauty of faith. Faith is the ability to believe something without undeniable proof. I am human and fallible and I do not pretend to have all the answers. I would advise that one be careful of those who pretend to. Each of the thousands of sects claim they are the correct faith and that the others are wrong. What I do know is that we should be good to each other, love one another, and try to do our part in making this world a better place.

I turn on music never when I live, only when I don't. My life has no background music. Next to my computer is a dead desk clock. It sits on top of a bookshelf, at 1:38. Always on time.

Coming back, I looked out a window and saw an old woman looking at a sunflower. She was old enough to be my grandmother. Her face was so wrinkled and small that the sunflower and its petals leaned forward on its jealousy-green stalk, and seemed to envelop the woman in an embrace that was very quirkily frightening. It was the first time I had seen the sunflower. It was the first time I had ever seen that woman.

While we are on the highway, a child presses his face against the edge of the window and closes his eyes, clearly enjoying the rush of air against his face. His chemically westernized orange hair flits in the air like a wave of desperate hands at a rap concert. Like grass underneath a helicopter, like the trembling eyelids of someone about to cry. The edge of the car curves inwards as my eyes give way to wide-angle lenses, and with steady hands, I take a mental shot of this child in B&W memory.

I step outside, and suddenly I deflate, wheezing like a punctured accordion. People pass through me, and I suddenly discover I am transculent and partially intangible. When I pass through people I eat their hair. When I walk all I hear is the flawless language and the careless but perfect intonation, lifting up and falling down at the exact phrases and at the right instant. Kids, --kids this time, nothing like the child peeking at the rushing wind-- kids flow around me like a pebble in water. Like the shape of a candle flame or a teardrop, but only sideways, and only flat. I discover that the perfect score I received only saddens me.

Suddenly, the faceless director behind a camera says "Cut!" and we shoot from a different set. This time I am in a court, and I pretend that my fury takes over. Fury, the book that I should have bought instead of a cheap trash novel that half of my friends would call, in their respective lingo, "absolutely amazing" and the other half "a plebian prostitute." No matter. I skid and my finger undergoes some sort of chemical reaction from a sudden friction burn and turns into a piece of shiny plastic. I clutch my killing tool and I fume in anger, and the ball becomes my embodiedment while my swing becomes the downward swing of the butcher's cleaver. Apparently I've done a good job, because everyone behind the glass is clapping, even the operator holding the boom.

All in a good day's work, I think. My coordinator mops up my sweat, and I gulp down a mouthful of

And there he was, sitting on the gray squatting-chairs while casually looking at

A phone rings, and I don't answer it, because I'm afraid lately that I won't be able to talk. I don't end my sentences lately. Then again, I don't talk lately. Its calming, the way it despairs, calling from all over the house. Like a young horse, a young being more than anything, it bleats. Begging. Who am I to talk, though? I don't, and so it gives up.

Its been a week since my cellphone decided to turn belly-up. I haven't gotten a new one since, out of sheer laziness, much like the reason I haven't gotten an mp3 player. Why listen to music when there already is so much in the world? The freedom of being not connected is too much to bear, sometimes, but its worth it. Tomorrow though, or the day after tomorrow, or next week, I won't be. I hope I won't be free. The inherent irony. You understand my irony as well as you understand the nested circles that I like to talk about.

I don't need any more colloquialisms, nor more people. Every day, I get more and more wrinkles in my hands, and the inside of my right thumb is starting to ache constantly. The inside of my skull is starting to give up. A single thought spiderwebs out into numerous connections. Why do I dream at night of being late to class, or doing laundry? Why are there Beatles and Van Gogh posters on my walls?

I wish I could die, the exact same way that I wish I could kill. With dreamy longing, but with resolved impossibility.








My cat is on heat. My boyfriend said “entire female cats are no problem.” “She won’t cry much – you’ll hardly notice it” he said. He emphatically stated that he had always lived in houses with entire female cats and they had never been any problem.

Guess who’s off on a nice five month deployment with the Navy – leaving me stuck here with the loudest cat in the history of the entire fucking world.

Oh, I know – it’s responsible to spay your cat. But the adorable little thing is an expensive and rather exotic pedigree – and we wanted expensive exotic kittens. She never goes outside (except for strolls on her harness. These rapidly turn into “race up the nearest tree and laugh at my human” on her harness, but hey). There’s no risk that she’ll have litters of unwanted kittens, so no risk of strays that go feral and destroy our precious endemic wildlife.

So now she’s wandering round the house howling. She’s got a piercing and physically painful cry at the best of times – having it repeated once every 5 seconds for an hour or so gets pretty damn awful.

I can’t let her have kittens yet. She’s too young and irresponsible, I don’t have the time, my boyfriend is a bit insane about her and would resent missing out on becoming a granddad for the first time…But the screaming will drive me mad. And she’s obviously not happy. I’m not getting sex either, but it doesn’t drive me to wander around the house yelling “Fuck me” at intervals. There’s a writeup under “How to calm a cat in heat” but quite frankly, I’m not sticking anything in my cat’s…er…pussy. Or one can pay for the services of a sterilized but still entire tom. This may well be an option.

She’s also started spraying. Apparently this is quite normal. What I’m having trouble dealing with is her choice of target. It’s me. She doesn’t spray anything else, just walks past me, wiggles her tail…and: *squirt*. Then wanders off. This is a problem here.

Oh well. She is still gorgeous, and wonderful, and is growing up to be just the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen. I just hope the kittens are worth all the noise.

In other news – like I said: the boy’s gone off to the Gulf for 5 months. Means more money, and he gets a funky little medal, so he’s happy.

I’m desperately trying to find a new job – one that doesn’t involve children in any way. I’m so sick of teaching. But one does get used to 10 weeks holiday and 25 days sick leave per year – dropping down to 4 weeks and 5 days respectively would be a shock.

Had a job interview this evening – do not think it went well – do not think I got it. Ah well. Then got lost trying to get from somewhere out one side of Sydney to my place out the other side. Had not left map in car. V. stressful. Maybe I’ll try real estate. Selling houses. At least they’ll take people with no experience – more than can be said for most places.

G’night E2. I’ll start writing again soon. Just as soon as the house is tidy, and the exams are marked, and when Sassy-cat stops screaming.

They've arrived. I now not only raise alpacas, but baby chicks/guinea fowl. There's actually pearl hens/roosters.

My father's mid-life crisis strikes again. This time it arrived in a small shoe size box with 25 peeping balls of fluff. At first I wanted to tell the man he's got the wrong house - then I looked at the address and took them and gave a small 'why did you have to deliver these today' grin. Once in the door I called my father to ask where 'these' go - he informed me he had set up a little home for them in the garage and I need to put them in there.

Ok so easy, right? Not. The box was a big box, a refrigerator box, and I couldn't reach my arm to the bottom to 'drop' these guys in. I had no intentions of wanting to touch them but I did have to so I built up a mound of their bedding and they dropped in. They all survived the plunge I flipped the heat lamp on and watched them. There is a few that are the 'leaders of the pack' when I dropped some feed down for them they all went nuts running one another for it, it was truly cute.

So ok the noisy bunch I left them in the garage, besides they smell. But I think they're cute enough to play with if I can reach them.

This is just the first chapter of the baby chick saga and the torment they cause.

check out www.guineafowl.com if you're still lost

MB and I spent some time Saturday talking about the meaning of virtue. It's a little odd that we're both somewhat unsatisfied with our lives, though not really with each other.

So, being a good Catholic lad, I kind of started with the Big 7, the ole tip top, the seven DEADLY sins. They are:

Pride: excessive belief in one's own abilities. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. aka Vanity.

Envy: the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.

Gluttony: an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.

Lust: an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.

Anger: manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. aka Wrath.

Greed: the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. aka Avarice or Covetousness.

Sloth: the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.

Even though I long ago gave up the idea of a Deity, this list of sins is very compelling. In many ways, the list seems almost Buddhist to me, since all all of the seven deadlies seem to result from an importance placed on the ego. Pride, the original sin in Catholocism, very close correlates to the frailty of the "self" in lots of Eastern philosophies.

Even more generally, if I could stop doing those things listed, or even reduce the amount of time I spend in activities related to those descriptors, I would probably be a better person. For an excellent short synopsis, see Minderbender's description of the seven deadly sins.

So virtue, to put a more positive spin on it, is divided somewhat differently in the Christian worldview (or at least Catholic worldview). The seven heavenly virtues are comprised of the Theological and cardinal virtues.

The Theological virtues are derived from Saint Paul and include love, hope and faith. Nice, sweet for quoting at weddings, but not really useful for me in my goal to be a better person. The cardinal virtues, mostly derived from classical Greek philosophy, are similarly unhelpful. They are prudence, temperance, courage and justice. All of which are cool, but do not work on the atomic level of personal philosophies all that well.

The Seven Contrary Virtues, as the name might suggest, are those virtues which are designed to combat the inclination to the seven deadly sins. The Contrary Virtues were derived from the Psychomachia ("Battle for the Soul"), an epic poem written by Prudentius: humility against pride, kindness against envy, abstinence against gluttony, chastity against lust, patience against anger, generosity against greed, and diligence against sloth.

This is getting closer, but I think needs updating, if nothing else for my Calvinist upbringing, and Weberian sense of work as a virtue. To that end, I have derived the following adaptation of how to be a virtuous person:

Industry: It is a virtue to work hard, to create order in the world through your actions. Industry not only prevents the destructive effects of sloth, but has an exponential effect for good as both an outcome and a process.

Charity: This virtue gets a bad rap under its current connotation, but what I mean by charity is a slightly older use of the word. Pedantically, charity is assuming the best in people. Don't talk poorly about others, act according to the golden rule, be patient and accepting. In some ways, this relates to social capital, and the fundamental attribution error, but really, it's best to keep it simple. Assume the best in people.

Humility: Don't get your nose out of joint because others don't see how special you are. Your life is no more or less important than anyone else's. Anger stems from pride, and so a healthy dose of humility can keep you calm.

Temperance: Moderation in all things. As an American, it's often hard to even tell when some behavior is excessive, but living simply is living best. Do I need that thing I think I need? Can I do without seeing that movie? Why am I ordering this beer? These kinds of questions can help forfend all sorts of gluttony and greed.

So I boiled the list down to four, which seems like a good number to me. They can all even really be boiled down further to the basic concept of selflessness. If I could nail these virtues down, and maybe pass them down to my children, it'll be a good day's work.

Return of the ankh

Personal mythology is a funny business. The relative value of certain things can only be truly measured within one's personal mythology, and yet to others these things may mean something completely different. So it is with the ankh.

I have never been one to wear jewelry. It makes me feel uncomfortable to the point where I don't even like to wear a watch, and haven't worn one in over ten years. I don't like rings and I have exactly zero piercings. Years ago I was relating these same details to a female friend who then promised to bring me a gift the next time we saw each other. The gift was a wrought iron ankh made by a blacksmith she knew. It was fairly heavy and large with six sharp points. The ankh hung from a leather cord, which she placed around my neck. For nearly two years it never left my neck. I slept with it on, showered with it on and made love with it on. I could not bring myself to take it off because it felt like it belonged around my neck.

It became my symbol

My friend Chris had selected this gift for specific reasons. Being dissatisfied with commercial variants, she turned to a friend who was handy with metals. Since she was the first person I ever told the story of my suicide and death to, the gift had great meaning. It was her way of saying that she believed in me.

"You are the personification of ankh."

A couple years later, I was relocating to Orlando, Florida. A month before leaving I met a woman and fell in love with her. I could not stay, I had to leave, and so she asked me for something she could remember me by. Seeking to make a statement about how important she was to me, I gave her the ankh. She was stunned, knowing its value to me, and rejected the gift at first.

Two years later, she gave it back to me. The leather cord had dried. It crumbled at my touch. For two years she had hung it on her wall at the side of her desk to remember me by. Now she needed to let go. When I returned to Orlando I had mixed feelings about the ankh, so I threw it in a drawer. One day, I told myself, I would get a new cord and wear it again. On that day I simply did not feel worthy.

"I finally found you a new cord for your necklace."

My wife works part time in a little shop that sells bracelets and necklaces at a theme park. A couple weeks ago I found the ankh in my drawer and asked if she could find me a brown leather cord so I could wear it again. It had to be like the old cord or it wouldn't look right. Last night she found one and left it for me to find in the morning. It is back around my neck after almost six years.


Even the ankh has its three queens

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