Friday, April 22, 2011

Settle For One Day To Believe In You

Not following a particular religion can make holidays feel a little weird.

A few of my Facebook friends on Monday posted about celebrating Passover. I checked my status feed this morning (Good Friday), and was greeted by at least 25 posts thanking Jesus for his sacrifice.

Generally, I try not to broadcast my feelings about religions. I like to spend a great deal of time with someone, usually, trying to get a feel for them, before I will tell them how I feel about religion. Now that I think about it, it's not really all that odd, to wait until you're familiar with someone before treading those grounds with them.

This country is still predominantly Christian, and it shows in my behavior, as I behave like a minority. Is there an issue of trust? There might be. You could say, I do not trust my acquaintances to stick by me if they knew I did not share their belief with them. Could that also be insecurity on my part, that I'm not willing to stick up to me beliefs in the face of opposition? Yes, but in the case of agnosticism/atheism, what do you gain by sticking to it? Nothing.

It would be foolish, in my estimation, to assume that although I tolerate my friends' beliefs, that they should tolerate mine. If a person follows a religion, then they should follow it to the exclusion of all others; if you have the faith that you're right, then you should be convincing all others to agree with you. If you aren't trying to convince others, how strong is your faith?

So, I say "Bless you" when someone sneezes, and I go to church with my family. I stand up and sit down at the right times, and I teach my children the prayers and psalms. It's a basis of a moral education, for them, and a constant reminder for me, of what I do not possess.

Conservatives in this country are right, in this one thing: tolerance will lead to the destruction of religion as an exclusive institution. If everyone is allowed to believe however they want, and the sheep quit attacking the goats just because they are goats, then the "us vs. them" argument fails to carry any weight.

Would be a bad thing? I can't be sure. I think I'd still miss the holidays, though.

Until another time,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So They Cut It Down To 3:05

I've quit listening to so much talk radio, and I think it's done wonders for my blood pressure. However, it doesn't help me get worked up for blog posts. Many factors limit my intake of stupidity; I hardly watch TV, and I don't read the news.

Well, that last part isn't entirely true. I still follow the links when someone sends me something to read. I know about the NFL lockout, I am aware that the Iowa Legislature is trying to cover up the state's animal husbandry practices, and some Great Lakes states are trying to close the budget gap with spending cuts they should not be making. However, all of these events have critics who are much more invested in the issues than I am, and can get fired up more easily.

Facebook is not a great place to get news from. For a while, it seemed that everyone was very concerned that I knew that Charlie Sheen was unbalanced. This...this is not news. I am never happier to be a quiet, private person than those times I see the entertainment media machine magnify someone's life to ridiculous proportions.

So, what have I been doing? Entertaining myself. My kids are getting older, and reading with them is great fun.  For my hour-long commute, I've obtained some audiobooks. Additionally, my car has satellite radio, which has some really interesting stations (the classic radio suspense station is currently high on my list).

Typically, though, I harvest my entertainment from video games. I work with computers all day. Staring at two screens covered with the arcane language of database queries, I make my daily wages. People with whom I work ask me, "How can you stand to go home and look at another computer? Don't you want to do something else?"

My reply is always the same. "At work, I don't always get to win against the computers. At home, I get to pick the stress level I want. I get to pick the battles...and I get to win."

Until another time,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Don't Cry Because It's Over, Smile Because It Happened

I was informed today that my friend Cathy Mckinna died.

To the best of our knowledge, she died in her sleep two nights ago; she was found in her bed, and had not been to work in two days.

If someone asked me to speak at her memorial (although I'm sure no one will), I'd have this to say.

I will miss Cathy, because my time at work was made richer by having her there to share it with. I didn't see or even talk to her every day, but the times we worked together were enjoyable. She was a good co-worker, smart and clever in just the right amounts. She never asked me the same question twice, which raised my respect of her many times over.

When I last talked to Cathy, she was filling out her forms to become a US Citizen. She'd set the money aside, and had downloaded an app for her iPhone to take the citizenship exam. I think she'd have made a good citizen for this country.

On a personal note, I considered her a good friend, too. She had compassion and empathy and insight. She liked showtunes. Also, she laughed at my jokes, which is more than expect from most of my friends...and what a laugh she had! You could probably hear her laughing from a mile off. It was worth it to get Cathy to laugh.

Yes, I will miss Cathy. I hope someone gets her to laugh, wherever she is now, so we can all hear that again.

Until another time,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Her Daddy Wrestles Alligators, Mama Works on Carburetors

Well, it's happening.

The eight year old boy is questioning the existence of Santa.

He started in, innocently enough (and lucky for him, without his five year old sister in the car). "There's no way reindeer can fly," he tells me. Which led me down a line of questioning that demonstrated to him that he had no idea how anything could fly. He finished with, "There's just not enough force!" To which I replied, "Maybe they are Jedi reindeer." He laughed it off, "Not that kind of force, Dad."

Circumspectly, he's been undermining Santa, then checking me (or his mother) for reactions. He still composed a letter to the man, hope springing eternal, and put it in a Santa letter box he knows of.

Literacy, problem solving, sense of self: all these things he has done, and they indicate he is growing up; this is the first one that has made me wish he was not. When he asks me later this week, I'm not sure how I'll answer. But I know how I want to.

Many great things have been written, some of my favorites I've referenced before. This is another of my favorite writings. It makes me tear up a little, to think about a person writing such an eloquent response to a point-blank question posed by a young girl. To think about a young girl posing such a question to the newspaper, and hoping for an answer, makes me tear up a little more.

She got her answer, which I have copied shamelessly from The Newseum.
"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Published on Sept. 21st, 1897, the editorial was left unsigned. Seriously, though ... who was thinking about Santa in September?

Until another time,

Friday, November 12, 2010

Are Part of Being Young

Editing comes naturally to me.

I have a friend (I call her a friend), whose blog I started reading a while ago. Her blog is different than mine, and I'm sure it appeals more broadly. She allows for variances from the rules of writing; hers is more of a stream of consciousness flow, conversational in its manner. She writes while her emotions are still raw and powerful, and I would not be surprised to hear that her keyboard was wet from her own tears at the end of more than a few of them.

Without realizing how damaging this could be, I reflexively critiqued her writing, from placement of punctuation to spelling errors, typos and verb agreement, and so on. I didn't mean to offend her, and luckily, she knew that I intended no such thing. She politely notified me that she didn't think she wanted my help, and it was then I realized that I had been essentially editing her diary or journal.

Her thoughts, her feelings...shared with the internet, but still her emotions, laid bare. I had run roughshod over them, because while I was reading, my eyes would stumble over misused grammar, and it jarred me away from the perfect immersion of her story. I wanted everyone who read it to experience her weavings without interruption, and I had tried to change it to fit my view of what it should (or should not) be.

This revelation made me think about my friends (I call them my friends), and how we approach writing our blogs. Some write their blogs like journalists. They are art critics and sports beat writers, political strategists and foodies. Starting with a play or a plan or a plate, they explore each part of it with their words. Others still are travelers, whose blogs are a place to record what they experience on their journeys, so we might see the world through their eyes.

My writings? These are my essays, awaiting publication; my arguments, prepared to face attack; and my speeches, searching for the right audience. Each word is carefully chosen, every connotation is weighed carefully against the others. Even my mother tells me that my thoughts appear to have "boiled" for a while before I couch them here. I strive to be thought-provoking. The written word is more to me than just a tool to convey thoughts. It's the medium in which I choose to frame my existence.

An apology to my friend (I call her my friend) for trying to edit her soul from her blog.

Until another time,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Each and Every Note Another Octave

I voted today.

My lovely spouse had gone before me (while I was taking the children to school), and called to say we weren't on the registered voter list. She mentioned to me that the volunteer had said that sometimes people just drop off the list. She reminded me to have my driver's license handy.

When I got there, I went to the registered voter line, organized alphabetically. I handed the volunteer my driver's license, so I wouldn't have to spell my last name (which is easily misspelled).

Still, it got looked up wrong, and I was told I was not registered. I pointed out the error, and after flipping back a page, my name was found, immediately following my wife's unsigned line.

Then I mentioned that my wife had already been there, and that she had been informed that she was not registered, and that she had registered again, and that she had voted. I was assured that her vote would count. Which makes sense, after all, it's a secret ballot, how would they know which one was hers? Since she doesn't plan to return and vote again under her registered name, I think she'll be able to vote in future elections, as well.

Our volunteer looked rather embarrassed about all this, so I told her that it was still pretty early, and she'd probably only had one cup of coffee so far. Her fellow volunteers laughed, and I went to retrieve my ballot.

How did it go, you ask?

I voted to increase the local property tax, because I have seen the school district budget, and I know how the state money has decreased, while the need to educate our children has not. Also, some of the school buildings are so old, they are out of code; they need repairs or replacement of certain fixtures.

I voted against all incumbents, because sometimes I'd rather have "the devil I don't".

I voted for everyone running unopposed, because they need affirmation, too.

I did not vote for anyone in the race that I had not researched (Judge 3, 10th District Court), a fact that bothered me. I should have looked at the sample ballot on the Secretary of State webpage, so I would have been better prepared. I won't be missing this one in 2012.

Until another time,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Like a Hurt, Lost, and Blinded Foal

My faith is like a single thread, stretching up from me, into blackness I cannot penetrate.

It wasn't always this way. I used to have a rope; a golden rope, that I would lean on, pull on, use to hold myself up if  I felt I was falling.

A slow erosion of reason wore against my rope, and a thread is all that remains.

So, I have a single silver thread, impossibly thin. Now I stand without aid, and without fear of falling. Still, I hold onto the thread.

Mass was held last night, at my son's religion class. I attended with him, performed all the usual rituals with him and the others in the church. I felt as though I had attached a cup to my end of the thread, and I had whispered into it, "Is anyone there?" I pressed my ear to the cup, and waited.

I'm still waiting, as I have always waited before.

...and will continue to wait, so long as a thread remains. For when it is gone, it will not be because I let go. It will be because whatever I thought it was tied to has gone.

Until another time,