Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Blog of the Dead.

There is nothing in the world like zombies. Well, sorta. You don't have to dig deep into the genre, especially Romero's part of it, to see that it is a repository of cultural reflections, with enough metaphors and allegory to explode your brains.

This weekend, during our brunch and zombie movie marathon, I'm sure someone (me) will have enough beers to start the conversation about what the best way to survive a zombie apocalypse would be. And, while I love these conversations as much as everybody else, they are really easy to have, something missing in the conversations about what zombies usually represent.

Putting these thoughts together makes me wonder. If zombies really represent our endless hunger for blind consumerism, or to show how easy it is to lose our ability to think (brains anyone?) when it comes to religion or politics (not like there's much of a difference these days), what really is the best way to survive when you're surrounded by the unknowing dead? (answer: shotguns and cocaine!) I have to say that for both of those scenarios I just don't know the answer. When I was talking to people about the health care debate, the sheer amount of inaccurate information that they believed as fact was depressing. What good is a democracy when the people are just too damn lazy to educate themselves? And it is impossible to illuminate someone to your world view when they openly state that their version of the 'Truth' (what an evil word) is just as valid as yours and must be respected.

Imagine a zombie movie where the only weapons available are reason and persuasion, where our band of unlikely survivors have to talk their way through an urban landscape just to survive. Not only would this movie really suck, it would never work. Zombies don't listen, zombies don't reason, zombies only feed and die. Maybe this is why people paint me the cynic, I belong to a long tradition of thinkers who have stared into the abyss and have seen that it was us. And if history is any indicator (hint: it is), the future is only more of the past, but with bigger explosions and titties (I'm sure god is a big fan of Michael Bay films).

So what's the best way to survive? Do you barricade yourself in with the other survivors, hoping that the zombies don't smell you out and overwhelm you? Do you flee into the mountains armed with the knowledge that fewer zombies means easier victories? What if the success of the Tea Party is the vanguard of the 'new religion', the synthesis of blind faith and blind nationalism (incidentally, the only necessary ingredients for a fascist state)?

I'm not saying that it will happen that way but, once a certain tipping point was reached, it has before. Zombie movies traditionally don't end with the heroes riding off into the sunset. Usually they are picked off one by one until all that's left are the lucky, doomed to wander a dystopian landscape until their fates catch up with them. I'm also not saying that blind consumerism and the empty worship of capitalism is leading us down a path where multinational corporations can purchase elections without limitations and get to help us paint our political landscape (okay, that I really am saying).

We live in the future now, damn it! With all the progression that our species has made in the last few thousand years, I hope we don't stop before robots get a chance to steal it all from us. We are so close, on a large scale, from leaving the confines of our planet and exploring the entire galaxy. Every year scientists get closer to understanding their theory of everything, arrogantly named but pretty cool nonetheless. It won't be much longer before nanobots are performing our heart surgeries and we can grow replacement limbs from our own cells. There are a million ways for us to fail, but only one way to survive, and that is together. Maybe the solution isn't in defeating the zombies, but co-opting the system for ourselves. I understand the inherent conflict necessary for opposing world views, but pretending that it doesn't exist or believing that rational conversation alone is a good long term survival practice will not assist us in reaching our species' potential.

We should fight back, not always just with words, but with action. Weird that this whole rant just boils down to an appeal to action, but if you don't vote next week for something that you believe is important, or if you don't know enough to tell the difference, than I guess you're just another zombie.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why I am an Atheist.

I really wanted my second post to be light-hearted, something for the kids, ya know? But I guess I chose the name of this blog for a reason. My writing has traditionally been without purpose, more to shape my voice and to appease my ego than anything else, but as I age I find I need more goals in life. Damn it.

Lately on Facebook I've been caught up in several conversations about the lack of belief, traditionally called atheism, and it never ceases to amaze me how few people truly understand the condition. I'll write on it a lot here in the future, but first let me explain why I'm an atheist before we move on to the less important details.

I was the first of five born to young parents, my father recently out of college and starting on his first career. At the time they had taken the common route of falling away from their parent's belief system, dabbling into what my father now refers to as the 'occult'. Stories from this time are vague, after their conversion back into the fold when I was 5ish the early 80's and late 70's are hardly referred to at all. I remember being left at my Grandparent's house so that my parents could head to the river to be baptized and they have been in that river ever since.

I'm going to glaze over a lot of the details of my childhood; the deaf mother, the two younger siblings born with special needs, the constant conflict with my parents (my best guess is that I actively fought with my parents an average of six days a week for twelve straight years until they packed all my stuff into bags, threw it on the lawn, and called my friends while I wasn't home right after I turned 18), even though these issues had a lot to do with the person I've become. While it was a general sense of rebellion and lack of trust in authority that pointed me towards Atheism, I was still a strong proponent of the faith until my twenties, only identifying myself as an Atheist after a lot of introspection and investigation (a common theme among atheists is introspective conversion). What made me an Atheist was how I felt about it.

My family had a long history of jumping churches, eventually my mother's persecution complex would kick in and she'd accuse the church of ostracizing her, or my father would find some conflict of theology and we'd move on to another church. This happened a lot, sometimes it seemed like more than once a year, but it did let me observe many facets of the Christian faith.

I first faked speaking in tongues when I was about 8 or 9; I did it to impress my parents but deep inside I was torn up with guilt in it not being real. I devoured the bible studies my father would teach in our house, refusing to play with the other children and sitting with the adults and mostly just listening and reading. I tried to read the Bible at least a dozen times, but it just couldn't hold my interest, and this is despite the college age reading level I developed before I left school in the sixth grade. I would lift my hands during the charismatic church services, and bow my head when prayer was offered, but deep inside it always felt empty. I joined church choirs, hoping that the gift of music I inherited from my very religious grandfather would be the gateway to the mind of God, but no amount of attempt was powerful enough to get past the silence. When I was 16 I started to develop pain in my knees and I would force myself to kneel and pray, believing that the needles in my legs were his way of edifying me, spending hours there until the silent tears ran down my cheeks, always begging for relief and hoping that God would reward me for my faith. There was never anything there other than cheap church carpeting and the quiet prayers of those next to me. 

There were bible vacations held over the summer, bible camps when I got older, and after we started homeschooling even my curriculum was filled with God's truth. As my own desperate attempts to reach God bore no fruit, and the adults in my family showed even less ability to translate God's love to me, I started to lock onto the information given to me and that's when it started to happen.

My father is a big nerd and I love that part about him. He was a computer geek back in the 70's and we were on the internet in our house back when there were only 4 colors available and you had to use your phone to call a university to log in. He exposed me to science fiction as a child, even taking me to the drive-in to watch Empire Strikes Back when I was too young to sit through the entire thing. But the thing about science fiction is the first part of it, the science. I inherited his love of science, even creationism for a while, but the problem with science is it makes you think. I'm not suggesting that only thinkers are atheists, or that it is not possible to think and come to a different conclusion, but once you open up that door, it is nearly impossible to close.

I eventually got married to a Catholic, one church being the same as any other to me at this point, and I went to my first Catholic mass. Say what you will about all the extra deities the Pope's people have, but they do understand how to translate the glory of God. Their architecture is beautiful and they behave like a group of people who truly believe that the God of the New Testament is the same one who was capable of all that genocide from the old Testament. There is an element of fear and ritual to their version of Christianity completely lacking in anything I had previously experienced and suddenly it all came together.

By the time my Father was convinced that God wanted him to sell everything he owned and hide from the end of the world up in the mountains, I was pretty much done with the whole thing. I took an intellectual step back and started to actively research it from an outside point of view. Once I reached this point than it was a simple matter of deciding what to believe. I spent years in dark places, the foundation of my entire universe had been removed from me by the simple facts of living through it, but eventually I found myself on the other side, absolutely convinced that all the fear, guilt, shame, and panic I had experienced throughout my life because I could not feel what I was supposed to feel was unnecessary.

Eventually, as I matured in my new views on life, I found authors and people who had blazed the trail before me and it all made more sense, but that doesn't change that I'm an Atheist because of how I feel. Despite how the entire Atheist world view is one built on rational thought and reasoning, no amount of those things has ever convinced the faithful they were wrong; that takes emotion and time, something all humans are born with plenty of.

It's been years since those moments, but it has defined who I am. Some of the best people I have ever met will disagree with me until the end. I am well armed now with logic, quotes, reason, and passion, but that is not my Genesis. It all started with a boy waiting for his parents to return from the river, wondering why he was left behind...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's the new me.

Same as the old me.

Sure, I'm all domestic now. (again)

But this time I'm gardening, so that's totally an improvement. Also, I'm baking...this time without boxes.

My last blogs were all about whiskey and mistakes, sleeping with other people's girlfriends, and the cutters (strippers) that loved me. Today finds me sitting on a well-lit couch intended to be uncomfortable, listening to Concerto in Bb Major by Tempesta Di Mare, a complete news junkie (this is mostly new), and desperate for an outlet. I am always amazed at how many people in my life have read my stuff and I would like to welcome you all back.

So where to begin? Should I rant about how Vince Vaughn is misunderstood and that it is the intent and not word usage which should be the focus of our rage? Perhaps it's strange that I have yet to vomit out an opinion on Glenn Beck, he is more necessary than you probably realize, or give everyone an update on our new porch (the old one was stolen by the winds of change and a cedar tree).

Maybe some emo crap about how much I miss my cat.

Or maybe we should just take it slow, get used to each other again. Like an ex-lovers arms, my brain and ramblings will be comfortable again in time.

Since most of you refuse to participate in this conversation, instead lurking in your family rooms while the kids get into the cookies again, and don't think I don't love you for it, allow me to welcome myself back to our old ways again. Me being me and you being you.

Until Glenn Beck's zombies kill us all.