Spritzophrenia

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Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

Who Said Gods Have No Need To Dream?

Posted by spritzophrenia on May 9, 2011

I’m downloading the “Batman” (1966) TV series, to further my 12 y/o’s cultural education. I’ve already shown him a few of the original Star Trek series 🙂 Shakespeare schmakesmear! Speaking of high culture…

Gods

Who said Gods have no need to dream?
They dream darkest and most,
their night eyes inflaming a realm
their waking weeps as lost.

Chafing through torture of control
burning mastery, they serve;
sleeping in soul made mortal
embrace their human love.

The lonelier their peaks of cloud
the closer their dreams come
to warm plain and peopled hillside
– Gods most have need to dream.

Janet Frame, from The Pocket Mirror

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Is It May Already?

Posted by spritzophrenia on May 5, 2011

Hi all, and a special welcome to the new subscribers. It seems like an age since I last wrote from the land of Spritzophrenia.

Some personal goings-on first. It’s less than 8 weeks until our baby is born. Happygirl is getting extremely round, and is somewhat physically uncomfortable, but all is well and as normal as these things go.

I found out two weeks ago that my younger sister Carol has cancer. She’s not quite forty years old, and it’s serious. It’s colon cancer, with some nodes in the liver and a tumor has spread to one ovary. She goes into surgery tomorrow to remove the growths, and within three weeks they hope to start 9 months of chemotherapy. Things are not good, but the doctors have also said it’s potentially cure-able. All is not lost. Needless to say, I was quite upset after she rang me. (You might want to go back to my short series on sickness and pain.) Strangely, in the last week I’ve become very confident that she’ll be able to beat this thing, and I feel peaceful. I don’t know how much stock to put in such feelings, but those of you who pray are welcome to do so. (Yes, I did.)

My postgrad sociology study is going very well, however there’s a huge workload which doesn’t leave me with much energy to blog. I do have a lot of thoughts, theories and mental meanderings to share with you, it’s just a question of when. I’ve just finished my thesis proposal on “Why Stay if You’re Gay?” (Homosexual Participation and Identity in the Church). Would you like me to put it up here for you to read?

sunrise woman

Among other things, I’ve been reading up on Queer theory. You may or may not know that the word “heterosexual” was only coined a couple of centuries ago. Some people (notably a chap called Foucault) argue that the conception of heterosexuality was very different before this. As part of les-bi-gay studies, the study of heterosexuality has emerged. Given that I’m studying gay Christian men for my thesis I find it enlightening to look at things from the other side, so to speak.

Here’s some thoughts from one writer (Richard Dyer, in a 1997 paper, for what it’s worth). What do you think of these?

Dyer considers heterosexuality and homosexuality are not acts, or an identity, but what we desire. “Heterosexuality is not man-woman coitus, but the desire for it and/or the fact of being identified by the desire for it.”

Here’s his list of five attributes of heterosexuals:
1. Difference is at the heart of sexual object choice.
2. Difference is conceptualised as oppositeness.
3. Difference is, in fact, power imbalance. (Eroticised power imbalance)
4. Sexuality has something to do with procreation. (For many religions sexual reproduction is the purpose of sexuality.)
5. Sexual practice is an affirmation of one’s identity as normal.

The notion of race is profoundly heterosexual. Race is a way of categorising bodies that reproduce themselves.

Society enforces a “compulsory heterosexuality” (Adrienne Rich).

So there we go. How do those of you who are hetero feel about these? Identify with any of it?

Till next time,

Jonathan

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Tori Amos | Crucify

Posted in agnostic, hardship, personal, Sociology, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , | 24 Comments »

How God Tickles Our Brain (Part One)

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 16, 2010

You’re probably aware that in the last decades brain research has revealed a lot about religious experiences, near death experiences and similar. It’s an area I’m interested in but haven’t looked into much. Recently Bill wrote an article on the AgnosticsInternational forum and he’s kindly allowed me to reproduce it here. I think it’s a particularly clear and useful overview:

The Sensation Known As Religious Experience

I want to look at how the human brain works, and how it processes religious ideas: not to attack religion or theism, nor to support them, just so we can add this new dimension into our debates.

I shall take some short cuts and simplifications: if you need fuller and more complex material, I can give you such links. I do not feel that you need to know every nook and cranny of this field of science to gain some benefit from some knowledge of it.

Let us look at the human brain itself – it is made of localized areas called lobes, and these lobes “do” things when electrical activity takes place within them. Communication between the lobes is virtually simultaneous, and most of us would like to think that our brains are a seamless whole.

However, each lobe has its own specialization. One lobe processes your thinking and reasoning, another handles input from the five senses, another deals with speech and yet another is your short term memory. These lobes are the conscious part of your mind – it is where you see, hear, think and react to the world outside. Although these lobes are part of the integrated whole, just for discussion purposes and not as a definition, it is useful to group these lobes together as a single unit, and call it “the little brain”.

The rest of the brain deals with everything else from controlling your heart rate to providing emotional responses to holding long term memory. Again, purely for discussion, it is useful to call this subconscious area of your brain “the big brain”, for it really is very much larger than the conscious brain.

The technology of fMRI allows doctors to study what is wrong with any one lobe, and researchers to examine what each lobe does. Some of the research simply confirms prior theories, and some gives new insight and explanation.

For example, we now know that the little brain processes about 2,500 bits of data per second, constantly during waking hours, and never varies much from that figure. Big brain processes about 4 billion bits per second, some lobes in constant agitation and others at rest until their functionality is required.

One early discovery explained the experience of deja vu. When a subject loses the short term memory of a sight or sound just after seeing or hearing something, the sound or sight is present in long term memory. That is, the sight or sound entered both short term and long term memory simultaneously, short term dropped it for some reason, and found that long term memory recognized the sight or sound – even though it was being sensed for the very first time. Deja vu really is nothing more than a brain blip.

We now know that the ability to believe in religious ideas is held in three separate lobes, which do other jobs as well. This ability piggy backs on those lobes. That is, there is no special religious belief lobe. (It would have been a very odd god who had the human mind built in such a way that it was impossible to believe in god, and the mechanism neither adds nor subtracts from theology). The first piece is [unfortunately this section is missing. Can anyone help fill in the gap?]

The second piece is the temporal lobe. When this lobe is activated, it gives us the ability to empathise with others. It is normally activated by seeing somebody or something, and we sense whatever it is that the person or thing is experiencing. Sometimes it gets activated when no-one is present, and we then sense the presence of that no-one. One cause of such activity is temporal epilepsy – and such epileptics have so many religious experiences that they are considered to be blessed by some cultures. Another cause of such activity is an experimenter providing the lobe with micro-electronic stimulation, and the subjects consistently report religious experience, consistent with the prior teaching of what a religious experience consists of. Christians report sensing the presence of Christ, jews the presence of God, Muslims the presence of Allah, buddhists a state of nirvarna and so on.

The third piece is the Limbic system – several lobes deep in the lowest reaches of the subconscious that provide, among other things, the ability to get ready to have sex, to fight, to flee in fear and so on. One thing we have learned about this particular area is that it is where all Near Death Experience originates – with its hallucinations, ghosts, and light beckoning from the other side of death’s door. Some brave people have had NDEs invoked upon them in laboratory settings.

However, outside of such experiments, the strength of NDEs produced by the limbic system are so overpowering, that atheists have been known to become theists after such an event.

We need to look at these three pieces in some more detail – but we have gone far enough for an overview.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Before looking at religious belief itself, I’d like to take your time to look at how the belief system works in general.

The events you conscious mind witness pass into your subconscious instantaneously. The subconscious processing of those events causes emotions and memories to be evoked and the results often are passed back to the conscious mind equally instantaneously.

But sometimes the mechanism does not always work properly.

For example, you meet a person and big brain gives you an instant signal that you know this person. May be with some images of shared experience, and so on. Definitely with a signal if this person is friend, foe or an unknown quantity. But the person’s name may escape you. How can that be? Big Brain definitely knows a lot about this person, and must have that name stored somewhere – it is just the ability to get to that memory sometimes stalls. Hypothesis: until modern times, recognizing friend or foe was far more important than remembering names, so our brains are still more geared to the friend/foe recognition than to trivial side issues.

There is a similar effect when you mislay something. Short term memory has no idea where your keys are – someone tells you left them in a particular place – and Big Brain’s instant confirmation makes you slap your head as you say “Doh!” Hypothesis: Big brain sometimes is working to an agenda that does not necessarily match that of little brain. Being at a subconscious level, we have no idea what that agenda is at any one time.

When it comes to what we believe, the sequence is that input to the conscious is processed by the subconscious and the subconscious sends a “true/false/don’t know” sort of signal to the conscious mind.

If I say “Madagascar is a large island in the Indian Ocean” you probably get a “true” signal – even if you have never been to that place in your life. Your subconscious measures the statement, finds it consistent with everything you have been previously been told, and you get the “true” signal.

If I say “Frenchmen live on a large island called France in the middle of the Atlantic” you could get a “false” signal. If the person making the statement is someone you trust, you might get a momentary “don’t know” to see if there is some special meaning, or joke, tied up in a statement clearly at odds with everything you have previously been told about Frenchman and France.

The signal for true/false comes as early in receiving input as possible, and then affects everything that follows thereafter. (This really is very recent research, and may need further work to get it clarified into a predictive phenomena). But it has been shown that if someone makes an early statement that the recipient holds to be false, all the following statements made are scrutinized purely to see where they also fail to be true.

The mechanism is very powerful: a professor of English found that he could dismiss a 27 page essay showing that William Shakespeare might not have been the “real” author of the plays and poems ascribed to him. The professor had published a paper supporting the opposing view – that Shakespeare was the real author. He dismissed his student’s essay out of hand, without further comment, because the wrong year was given in it for King James’ coronation. It mattered not how trivial the error was, it gave his Big Brain all it needed to satisfy its agenda that the submitted essay was wrong.

The sub-conscious acquires its stock of what is true and what is false over a relatively long period of time. Once something is held to be true or false, the belief mechanism is designed to keep that belief intact. When something is moved from being true to being false, or vice versa, the emotion involved with such a switch is very strong. We call it an epiphany.

Once a belief is established, it is very hard to get it changed to something different.

Which is why we will consider next the Jesuit truism “give me the child before he is 7 years old, and I will give you the man”

Click here for Part Two. You can also

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DJ Jan & X Santo | Reaching Into My Brain (1995)

Posted in agnostic, Biology, Science, spirituality | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

Atheists Have No Songs

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 19, 2010

Check out Steve Martin and a talented Bluegrass ensemble performing a humorous hymn:

Of course, atheists do have songs, I’ve written about atheist music and atheist spirituality.

Even when I was a Christian I came to detest communal singing as a form of worship. So 19th century, dahling. Frankly, I don’t LIKE most christian songs. For me, connecting to the transcendent requires other kinds of music. For example, my friend Ginger’s brand new hard trance track. Go have a listen.

Ailenni | Lost In Love (Original by Legend B)

I think he’s giving it away for free, I will update with the download link once I find it.

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Posted in atheism, humor, humour, spirituality | Tagged: , , | 9 Comments »

No Experience Is Better Than False Experience

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 10, 2010

Here’s another personal story from me. This was originally published as a guest post at my Texas friend Dave’s Agnostic Pentecostal. I use a bit of Christian jargon, hope it makes sense.

I’d like to tell my story of not being slain in the spirit.

I spent a fair bit of time in spirit-filled practice when I was a student, attended a charismatic church and worked closely with Pentecostals in our campus christian group. I can still speak in tongues on demand, if you want me to. At the time, a pentecostal ministry ran a revival week in a huge tent out in the countryside. I’ll let the cynical among us note the appropriateness of using a circus tent for such events. They brought a number of apparently-big-name preachers in from overseas and one of them was a clean-cut young man who was surely not even thirty years old. I’ll call him Redfords LaGrange. God had allegedly been talking to him since he was seven years old, and he’d made a study of “God’s Generals,” famous spirit-fooled preachers.

Standing at the rear of some 1500 people, I listened to him. On another night I’d heard Redfords exhort the whole crowd to voluntarily speak in tongues at the top of their lungs. I felt uncomfortable with this, mainly for what I felt were Scriptural reasons. It also seemed kinda stupid and I quietly left to stand in the dark field and pray. As the roar of the crowd behind me surged, I could hear the cry from the poor folk trying to sleep in a distant farmhouse: “SHUuuuuuuuuT UuuuP!” This rather amused me, especially since they actually used more colorful language.

slain in the spirit

Anyway, on the night in question Redfords LaGrange called for those engaged in youth ministry to come up; he was going to pray for them. I walked up the long aisle into the spotlights along with about 50 others and we stood in a line along the front. Now, when you’ve got 50 people to pray for individually and you’re a preacher with no time to spare, you have to kind of rush along the line and spend about 15 seconds with each person. You don’t have time to even ask the person’s name. As Redfords was coming, I prayed “God, I’m open to anything you want to do. Do anything you want to me. Make me fall over if you want, only please let it be you and not psychology.” I’d been praying that all the way down the aisle too. Let me say, I was very sincere about both things. I wanted a touch, but only if it was real.

I knew falling over was likely, as that tended to happen in these kind of meetings. I always preferred to call it “falling over”, as the term “slain in the spirit” is not one found in scripture. The cynical can point to the story of Ananias and Sapphira, who were slain BY the Spirit. I doubt anyone wants to recreate that experience.

Indeed, as Redfords came down the line, I saw people falling over out of the corner of my eye. “Catchers” ran forward to make sure they didn’t hit the ground too hard. Many of us already had catchers standing behind us in advance. If it’s an experience from God, I always wondered why he would allow you to be hurt?

Redfords LaGrange reached me and prayed, his hand gently on my head. I didn’t sense any physical pressure from him, I was alert to being pushed. He prayed kindly and briefly, and moved on. Did I sense him hesitate when I didn’t collapse? I stayed there praying, slowly realising that out of the whole line, I was the only one who hadn’t fallen over. Maybe I was resisting the spirit, maybe my intellect had made me hard-hearted. But I know I was sincere. I just didn’t want it to be weak buckling at the knees under the influence of emotion, tiredness or peer pressure.

Mark Vernon migrated from christian clergy to atheist, and now calls himself an “agnostic christian”. He’s an advocate of silence and not-knowing. Vernon says it’s important to draw a clear line between silence and an experience of ecstasy.

“There is an emphasis on experiencing ecstasy in much contemporary churchgoing. This is Christianity that is authenticated by some kind of peak experience, from speaking in tongues, to being healed, to seeing a statue move. Typically, the experience is noisy, demonstrative and, qua the experience, often barely distinguishable from a bungee jump or druggy high. But this is Christianity as psychological buzz; its passion is no more than emotion. It’s aims may be valid – happiness, satisfaction, belonging – but they eclipse the goal of spirituality, at least according to [Meister] Eckhart, which is that of sacred ignorance. For the pursuers of pure experience, the unknown is regarded suspiciously. They substitute the language of personal fulfilment for the language of … doubt.”
~ After Atheism, p 120.

So what do I make of this? As it happens, in the course of many other meetings I’ve never fallen over. I’m not a hater; I believe that if God was there, then my prayer was honoured. I also have a funny feeling that at least some of those people fell over because they felt they had to, or look unspiritual in front of the audience. Have you ever felt left out when others all seemed to be getting blessed? What did you make of it?

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If you want to see what this stuff looks like, check out these funny videos.

Speaking of “slain”, have some Slayer. (“Cult” Lyrics.)

Posted in agnostic, Christianity, Emergent, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

The Secret Life of a Re-Defined Jew

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 8, 2010

I think we need to talk to each other about our spiritual lives. Even though we may respectfully disagree, I believe that peaceful co-existence of all religions in the 21st century depends on this.

To this end I interview various believers and non-believers here on Spritzophrenia. Today Romy Shiller from Montreal shares about her life and beliefs. Dr Shiller earned her PhD in drama, has published several books and works as a pop culture critic and writer. Her website is http://www.romyshiller.com

Jonathan: Hi Romy. Tell me a bit about your background- did you have any kind of spiritual upbringing?

Romy: Hey, Jon. Hmmm. I went to Hebrew School from grades 2-6. Took Hebrew in CEJEP for one semester, which comes after high school in Canada. Hebrew isn’t a religion but it’s certainly a part of my Jewish-ness. I can read, speak and write in Hebrew. When I light the candles for Shabbat or holidays a prayer in Hebrew is recited. I like that I know what I’m saying.

In grade 3, I won my first book prize for a poem I wrote about the Holocaust. My grandmother used to tell me stories about how her whole family was killed by Nazis for being Jewish in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland.

Dr Romy Shiller

Romy.

We were not spiritual (do you mean religious?) per se but we did celebrate the high holidays. We’d have a dinner and go to Shul (Synagogue). There, I always focused on good energy– not religion.

My Hebrew School was Kosher and followed all of the holidays– very different from home-life. I am vegetarian but I would never have milk with meat. That stayed from grade-school.

Jonathan: How would you describe your spiritual path now? How did you come to believe what you do?

Romy: I always say that I’m Jewish but I’m redefining what that means. As usual for me, Judaism is a base-line, and I freely extrapolate. I like my Jewish traditions and will always honour my grandparents.

I say that I’d be burnt in the ovens or stake as a witch no matter what I believe. As a matter of fact, just doing this interview is dangerous (But EXTREMELY important). Anti-Semitism is rampant. If you don’t hear from me in the future it’s your fault. 😉

On Twitter, someone using a Hitler icon recently threatened me. I will not give this person power by responding. I live with the danger of being a Jew every day.

So, no regular God for me. I have done psychic readings and Tarot cards, I have many different Tarot decks. One is Kabalistic and uses Hebrew letters. I believe in entities and one God. I believe in reincarnation. I have no friggin’ idea why I believe what I do. I have a blog on my metaphysical journey

Jonathan: What’s your day to day life like? Do you pray or keep Sabbath?

Romy: My day to day life has nothing to do with spirituality except that on the weekend I do Tarot. This to me is like a big fortune-cookie that I believe. My praying is more like thanking the powers that be. I am always grateful for ANY guidance. I kind of feel blessed.

I do not do Shabbat any more every Friday night but once in awhile. Again, it’s not religion for me, it is tradition. Lighting candles is like magic or meditation to me.

I just want to say something. At one time you talked with me about being Jewish not only as a religion but an ethnicity. If one buys into an idea of a straight, white, Christian, male as a ‘norm’ than I am ethnic. I have NEVER felt ethnic in any way. Even though there might be an impulse to label me as ‘exotic’ and although I might like that label, I am not that either. I am not an ethnic/exotic ‘other’.

Jonathan: When I said Judaism was an ethnicity as well as a religion, I meant no disrespect. ALL people have an ethnicity, including my own white New Zealand culture. It seems to me that Jewishness is a mixture of a “nation”, or “tribe” if you like, and a religion. Other religions, like Buddhism, seem to be uninterested in which tribe one comes from. Yet Judaism seems, to this outsider, very linked to a particular group. Any thoughts?

Romy: No offense taken? Jon. I don’t think that most people regard white, Christian, New Zealanders as ethnic. I don’t think anyone cares about my ‘tribe.’

I’m going to be very ‘in your face’ now. Nazis had this notion of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and moved towards a concept of an ‘Aryan Race.’ It brought that up for me.

Jonathan: You seem to have what might be called a “liberal” Jewish faith. (I don’t want to label you, so please forgive me if that doesn’t describe you.) How do you think about or relate to Orthodox or Hasidic Jews? In your point of view, is there any such thing as a “true” Jew these days, religiously?

Romy: Call me what you want but I may seep out of your definitions. Frustrating, eh?

I know a Christian, Filipino woman who works for Orthodox Jews. She will often remind me that it’s such-and-such Jewish holiday. I tell her that she’s a better Jew than me. *smile*

Orthodox and Hasidic Jews are extremely strict and play by the official Jew rules. They definitely embody qualities pertaining to being a “true” Jew. Nothing is ‘authentic’ but there are closer proximities than others.

Jonathan: I’m saddened that in modern Canada you still feel cautious about expressing your Jewishness. How do you think persecution has helped define you? (Persecution of your ancestors or in your own life?)

Romy: Yeah, it’s sad but not surprising. When I lived in Toronto, I brought in my grandparents to be interviewed about their Holocaust experience for the Shoah project by Steven Spielberg. There are Holocaust deniers and I thought that having a testimonial was important. [The Nazi Holocaust 1938-1945. Estimated Death Toll: 6 million Jews, 5 million others including 500,000 Gypsies, 6 million Poles, 5,000 to 15,000 homosexuals]

I was called a 3rd wave feminist in a book by the head of woman’s studies at South Carolina University. I researched what it meant to be a 3rd wave feminist. I found out that it’s aligned with a survivor mentality. I align myself with my grandparents whom I consider survivors. Persecution enabled this definition.

Jonathan: You seem to make a strong distinction between “religion” and “spirituality”. Can you tell me more about that?

Romy: Oh, yes I do make a huge distinction. Religion is paradigmatic. I consider it man-made, story-ridden and obviously ideological and prescriptive.

I am very spiritual. My spirituality is about connecting to unseen energies. It has nothing to do with prescriptions for being.

Jonathan: How does traditional Judaism think about spirituality outside the faith, eg Tarot? If the opinion is negative, does this bother you?

Romy: To be honest, Judaism in general doesn’t reflect upon Tarot and I don’t care what anyone thinks about my spirituality. I never did. I say, “bring it on.”

Jonathan: You said “no regular God for me” but also that you “believe in entities and one God”. What are these entities and God like for you?

Romy: Entities are like people who have passed on. Non-material beings that I can connect with. I find material physicality contentious.

I think of God as a quantum physics wave (or particle) in space. I am very comfortable with dualities. I don’t try to make things ‘fit.’ Ever.

The God thing is complex, eh? I absolutely do not believe that God created the Universe and even the idea of a ‘mind’ is problematic. My God doesn’t approximate human identity.

Jonathan: (This is the question I ask everyone.) Is truth important to you? If so, how do you know what you believe is true?

Truth is very important to me but I’m talking about honesty. In most of my books I use this example: Data and historical events do not shift but meaning does. The way we interpret data or historical events can change. For example, History. Things happened on certain dates. The way we regard these events might change. Data: Pluto is not considered a planet anymore. Alteration and flux are truth.

We are limited in what we can know given our senses. I know that any perspective I have is skewed. I am limited by my physicality– ironic because I am disabled.

A fish in a fishbowl only knows what a fish in a fishbowl knows.

Jonathan: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, Romy 🙂

Romy: A great pleasure Jon.

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Posted in Judaism, Sociology, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

What the World Needs Now

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 4, 2010

I wonder if yesterday’s post overwhelmed you? Many of my friends in the US were caught up in the fever of mid-term elections. Many of you are Democrats who were disappointed with the results. The last thing you wanted to hear was more misery.

I don’t always tell the whole story in my blogs, I leave some space for your opinion. So let me be up-front here. I believe in optimism instead of pessimism. Call it positive thinking if you like. I know I blogged about the irrational side of positive thinking, but I still believe in encouragement. I believe in “realism”, if you like, although we’re all gonna disagree on exactly what “being realistic” is. It’s hard, as I’m naturally drawn to the negative— perhaps that’s why I suffer from depression.

Regular readers know I’m fairly rigorous about what I believe; call me a skeptic if you wish, although as I’ve explained here, I don’t consider myself a rationalist. I want to hold those things together: rigorous thinking, an openness to spiritual reality and an activism and optimism toward the greater good.

There is a time for pessimism. There is a time for grief. But I don’t want to stay there. It doesn’t help.

hope

Years ago I was fascinated by the late 60s and the hippy movement. I was inspired by their optimism; for a short time it seemed some people believed that peace was really possible, that the world really could be a better place. All we had to do is love enough (and perhaps “drop out”). Laugh all you like at their idealism, but frankly if I have to choose who I’d spend eternity with, it would be hippies. I may not have the look— I think we’re well beyond that now— but I still have the hope, sometimes.

I have a vision of ten people gathering in a room, extremists of all forms: Democrats, Republicans, Anarchists, Terrorists, Peaceniks, Atheists, Fundamentalists, Foreigners, The Rich, The Poor, the Apathetic, you, and me. If we leave contentious issues aside and ask, “Tell me about your family?”, “Who means the most to you?”, “What art do you like?”, “What is the most beautiful place you’ve travelled to?”, “What do you hope for the future?”, “What do you think when you look at the stars?”, “How do you experience love?”. If we could truly hear each other, if we could somehow ditch the rhetoric and just talk as human beings, I believe we would have much more in common than hate.

I don’t care if it’s corny. I don’t care if it’s idealistic.

What the world needs now, is love.

It’s the only thing there’s too little of.

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[Edit: An example would be my meal with a Muslim]
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Jackie DeShannon | What The World Needs Now (1965)

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Posted in agnostic, hardship, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , | 13 Comments »

Taken For Granted

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 1, 2010

My girlfriend took me to see Leonard Cohen on Friday night— thanks babe. It was a fine performance and the sell-out crowd was enthusiastic. Enthusiastic, but nevertheless genteel; everyone stayed seated apart from standing ovations at the end. The front row sat demurely only a few meters from the stage, no need for security guards to keep the moshpit back.

The much-talked-about sound problems at Vector Arena weren’t in evidence. I did my usual tech geek thing, wandering around at half time studying the setup, but I won’t bore you with that. My body wanted the volume just a little louder, though it was sufficient. Perhaps the low volume was to keep the oldies happy, I’ve never seen so much white hair (or lack of hair) at a concert. Ruefully I remind myself that I’m not so young either.

The band put on an extremely professional show, so perfect that I wondered if they get bored playing the same songs night after night. A couple of Cohen’s band have been with him for 35 years, and if you go on YouTube or buy the concert DVD, you’ll find them playing exactly the same songs for the last few years, the same encores and even the same stage banter. The set list doesn’t vary much. Not that I was complaining.

Greed

My personal favourites were “The Gypsy Wife” (beautiful and complex), and the Webb sisters singing “If It Be Your Will”. It amuses me that 76 year-old Mr Cohen skips onto and off the stage like a gleeful child.

In the airport on the way home I had an experience which made me think. Sugarpop got us entry to the Koru Club, a private airport lounge for frequent fliers who can afford it. I can see why you’d want it: Comfort, quiet, internet, newspapers, showers, coffee, food and wine, on demand, as much as you can eat, free. A glutton’s paradise. I determined to make full use of the facilities, after all we had several hours to wait and this is not the lifestyle I’m used to. I gleefully allowed myself to feel like a rock star and began stacking up a decent pile of empty wine glasses.

What surprised me is I began to find myself judging the vintages inferior, and the range too small. Wanting a little more variety. Feeling the choice of salads, hot and cold foods were not quite what I felt like, couldn’t they make something else? Feeling just a little disgruntled when they replaced the cheesecake I’d been scoffing with not-very-nice pumpkin pie (it’s Halloween, y’know).

Then I realised. “Oh my God. This is where it starts. I’m beginning to feel entitled.”

Instead of feeling grateful that I had an abundance of delicious food and drink, I began to complain in my head. I was turning into one of THOSE people, who have an expectation of service and have forgotten just how close they are to starvation. I now understand how quickly rock stars become self-indulgent.

It was a salutary moment.

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The Webb Sisters with Leonard Cohen | If It Be Your Will

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Welcome to the Fall

Posted by spritzophrenia on October 7, 2010

Part 5 of a series starting here

I find it highly ironic that I choose to explore pain and suffering, and then come down with a severe cold, the crippling return of an old back injury, and a descent into depression. When I cough, I have to grip the wall, or fall over with muscle spasms. If there is a Being who Knows out there, perhaps she is laughing. How has this affected my own spirituality? I guess I’ll first say, “What spirituality?” I’m an agnostic, and always will be.

Does agnostic spirituality require a constant to-and-fro along the path of unbelief? Climbing up and down the ladder to heaven, closer and then further away? I haven’t updated you on my own journey for a while; my life, study and praxis moves much faster than I can write about it here.

Briefly, I think— for now— that some kind of g0d might exist, following my reading of various theist philosophers. I can “feel something there” when I pray or read mystical literature. Weird, I could never do that before. Is that just the “religion” part of the brain, starved for company?

Strangely, the constant pain in my lower back doesn’t convince me that g0d cannot be there. Perhaps if it continues for many more weeks it may grind down the teeth of my belief. I came to the intellectual position some years ago that the problem of evil is not a “proof” against God. It only means we cannot know g0d’s purposes.

I’m quite cheerful, the sun is shining, and my mind’s distortions of reality are receding. The cold is gone, but the back-ache remains, making it difficult to sit or lie for long. I’m typing this standing up.

Laughing Jesus

As a head-person who has an ambivalent relationship with body and emotions, can I find some meaning or meditative quality in my pain? Mostly it just takes away my focus, removes my ability to think clearly, makes me tired and removes me from the higher life. I’ve read some pretty inspiring stuff by those who live with crippling circumstance. But for me? Nope. It’s just pain. Guess I’m not a guru, huh?

Pain is everyday for some people. There is a challenge in day-to-day spirituality: The life of work, paying bills, struggling to manage kids, exhaustion, arriving too late for the start of the movie. The idol of the mundane says, “This is nothing, this is ordinary. Don’t read anything special into this.”

Do you read anything special into the mundane parts of your life?

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Ministry | Welcome to the Fall

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Blessed Are The Sick (Your Voice)

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 30, 2010

Welcome to the first in an occasional series where I specifically seek your feedback. I want to learn, you can guide my thoughts in ways I haven’t considered. Please respond in the comments and tell me what you think, even if it’s “I don’t know”.

[Edit: A good friend told me she wants to comment, but is “not a philosopher or theologian”. That tells me I’ve pitched this too high- I’m sorry. As with all comments here, I don’t expect you to be profound. I’m just happy to hear from you, even if it’s “Hi, what a crappy post. You suck, but I can’t think of anything to say.”

So if you like, just read the first bit and skip the rest.]

Today, I’m sick. Nothing serious, but our topic will lead into a short series about pain, suffering and spirituality; surely a challenge for any path. (Here’s number two in the series.) Atheists have it easy of course, they can just say, “The world sucks, it proves there’s no benevolence in the universe, and that’s all there is to it”. Or do you atheists have something more to offer when we suffer?

What does sickness tell you– if anything– about the transcendent world? How does it affect you: Your meditation, your prayer life, your practice? What is the meaning of life for those who cannot function at the same level as others?

To get your thoughts going, read on. Or just ignore, and go straight to the comments.

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hospital

Ideas

Consider Mental illness,

What we call schizophrenic is, as Joseph Campbell has discussed, called (positively) visionary or mystical in shamanic cultures, hence is valued, not feared or sedated with chemicals.

Shamanic illnesses are no different or ‘special’ than the illnesses of ‘normal’ people. Disease all comes from the same source, shamanic or not. Shamanic healers don’t piece by piece heal, they heal as a whole.

~from mental illness and spirituality

I’m mentally disabled myself, I’ve struggled with depression at times for most of my adult life. Or consider the last time you were laid under by a severe cold:

Psalm 41:3-4
The LORD will sustain him on his sick-bed and restore him from his bed of illness.
I said, O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.

What can we learn about the meaning of life from permanent disability?

The criteria of transcendence and transfiguration also apply to the spiritual development of disabled people, in each case relative to the characteristics of the body which is disabled, transcended, and transfigured. This enables us to conceive of a multiplicity of known and lived human worlds.

This has two advantages. First, the plurality of the human worlds enables us to construct a spirituality of disability which is not based upon a theory of deficiency. As long as disabilities are mainly understood as lacking something, their intrinsic character will be overlooked, and they will be understood as mere exclusions from the big world.

~ from A Spirituality of Disability


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Please Respond

What is the meaning of life for those who cannot function at the same level as others? Do you know someone who’s suffered from chronic illness? Where is g0d in all of this?

Please leave your feedback in the comments. This is YOUR chance to share 🙂

Morbid Angel | Blessed Are The Sick

Posted in agnostic, Emergent, god, hardship, spirituality, Your Voice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments »