Category Archives: good vs. evil

dying and living and sleeping and waking

i feel as if my soul is dying a slow painful death and taking my body down with it. or vice versa. either way, i’m dying a slow painful death, or at least it feels that way monday through friday, from approximately 8am to 430pm.

i remember about a year ago, i was so happy to have gotten this position with my current employer. this current position started out paying more than what i earned at the last library i worked at, plus i thought it would build on the foundation i had created at the other job.  and truthfully, in some ways it has. i have learned a lot at this job, especially in areas of web development, and the intricacies of interlibrary loan and copyright law. this knowledge is something i may be able to take with me wherever i go next. (and i am going, somewhere, but that will be the subject of another post.)

and yet, today my work consisted of comparing a printed out list with the contents of a database. basically, this is bullshit work, as far as i’m concerned. much of the work i do in this position is bullshit work. i spend most of my days moving bytes of ‘info’ from one computer to another, in an ‘industry’ i’m feeling less and less respect for with each day that goes by.

there is so much real work to be done in the world, and i’m feeling as though my soul and mind are wasting away. just today i finished reading derrick jensen’s dreams, which is an amazing, amazing book,  and has made one hell of an impression on my psyche. one thing this book has inadvertently done is made glaringly obvious to me all the ways in which my job, and current way of life, are 1. bullshit,  2. pointless, and 3. evil. yes, evil. the building i work in is located next to, and affiliated with, a vivisection lab. plus, there’s this whole morality, or lack of, in the medical-pharmaceutical industry, a morality that revolves around little more than making money. it seems the purpose of the medical-pharmaceutical industry is not to get people healthy, but to keep them sick yet somewhat functional, and dependent on the industry. sadly, the work i do in an academic medical library supports this paradigm.

meanwhile, this country is literally on the verge of financial collapse, and this planet is on the verge of a far worse collapse. if it isn’t too late, i want to do something about the latter, at least in my little corner of the world, but am not doing a damn thing, other than going to and from my little cubicle every day like a good little serf. other than the plants in my cubicle, the closest i am to nature most work days is the contact made with all the paper i waste (although we do recycle – what good little stewards of the planet we are), paper that used to be in a forest somewhere. as of now, i’m still contributing to the problem (if you could call the planet dying simply a ‘problem’), and i want to do something different from that. i want something where i’m giving back instead of calling myself environmentally conscious while working a job that is in conflict with my soul, just so i don’t have to worry so much about keeping a roof over my head and sallie mae off my back. dreams has touched off an awakening in me where i want to work towards what is important and real. and these are all things i’ve thought about before, but jensen’s book about intangibles has shown me what is real and necessary and urgent. i won’t go into all that now because i do plan to write a fitting review of dreams sometime in the next couple of weeks. for now,  i’ll just say that this book is something of a catalyst for me and the upcoming changes i’m planning to make in my life. yes, i’ve known all along that collapse is imminent, and even if it isn’t ‘imminent’, it is going to happen probably in my lifetime (which i guess would make it somewhat imminent), and sooner would be better than later. it’s helped me to realize that maybe now is the time for me to extricate myself from this system, which i am in the slow process of doing. (also, more thoughts on this extrication in future posts.)

are you happy with the work you do (whether it’s paid or unpaid)? are you contributing to the demise of this planet or to the demise of civilization? (those ideas are opposites, believe it or not.) whom do you serve, Life or Death?

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mixed reaction

i hate to actually say this out loud (or type it, as it were), but is god trying to get my attention? first there was the cross dream from the other night. i didn’t feel bad about the conversation i had with ‘jesus’ in the dream (and still don’t). but i (foolishly) wonder if what happened this morning on the bus is somehow related to the dream, and if so, what message might god be trying to send me.

if he is trying to get my attention, i don’t believe the message is as obvious as the casual observer to the whole thing might think. here’s what happened: a cute young lady of color, probably in her early 20s, boarded the bus and paid her fare, while casually chatting with the driver. i didn’t think anything of that, but realize now that she was probably asking permission for what she was about to do. there were no seats on the bus, so she stood at the front, and asked how everybody was doing this morning. most everyone replied with some version of ‘fine’ or ‘good’ or ‘blessed’. then she asked if anybody on the bus needed prayer, to which no one responded, so she then said, ‘well, i’m gonna pray for y’all anyway, that god will provide whatever it is that you need.’ and then she started preaching, about how god had done so much for her, and for all of us, and how if we’re not living for god, we’re going to hell. then she prayed aloud, that basically everyone on the bus would repent and be saved, if they weren’t already. most of the people on the bus had their heads bowed and eyes closed (but not me). at the end of the prayer, ‘in jesus’ name’ of course, she thanked us for her time and was silent for the rest of her time on the bus.

so, my reaction to this? first i was pissed off that she was intruding into my thought space. plus, how dare she assume that everyone on the bus believes the same way she does. the majority of passengers on this particular route are black, which as a racial group tend to be pretty religious on the xtian side of things, so that was a safe bet for her, but still. i was pissed, especially when she started talking about living for god, and hell. i wanted to exclaim, like i did in my dream, ‘it’s all a fucking metaphor!’ then i calmed myself down by thinking about this being a blue/amber thing, and considered that maybe she is at a point in her life where she needs this belief structure to make sense of her world. maybe god, as she sees ‘him’, really has rescued her from some bad situations or a bad lifestyle, and feels that everyone else ought to know all the good god has done for her and could do for them. i get that. i was certainly as zealous as she, especially about not wanting folks to go to hell, when i first became a born-again christian back in 1985. so i could respect that and started being a little less pissed.

once she started praying, i felt tears well up in my eyes. actually, i suddenly had this huge urge to just start bawling my eyes out. what stopped me was the fact that i ride this bus daily, and while i see most of these people every day, we’re mostly essentially strangers. yes, i was worried about what they would think of me. then, even while she spoke, i was trying to figure out why her praying affected me so. one conclusion i came to was that it touched me that someone cared enough to pray for me, and the other people on the bus, all strangers to her. she put herself out there for us, and seemed quite sincere about it.

on another level, i think god, not big daddy god in the sky, but the ground of all being, used this incident to get my attention. over the last few months, i’ve not done much praying or meditation or even study of spiritual matters. it’s not that i need to go live in an ashram or a convent, but just that i do need to remember the divinity present in all people and things. today on facebook, one of my friends posted a link saying something about ‘if you want to see the fingerprint of god, look at a godly man or woman.’ i say (and almost commented to him), if you want to see the fingerprint of god, look at the person right in front of you, ‘godly’ in the world’s eyes or not. here’s a controversial thought: even hitler is a part of the fingerprint of god. (stay with me here: i’m just considering the idea that god encompasses all things, good and evil, and that evil, in its own way, is nothing more – and nothing less – than god’s shadow side.)

so, i am eating the fish i need and spitting out the bones from this encounter. when i got off the bus, i surprisingly (to me) thanked her for her prayer and her heart. (her response? ‘praise god!) i’m taking this as a reminder to pay attention to the divinity i see all around, even during mundane activities such as my morning commute. and i pray that god/the universe/the ground of all being will use this young woman to bring more light into the world, and that she will grow into an ever-expanding knowledge of who and what god really is (and isn’t).

day 1: nablopomo, and i’m already cheating…

my first posting for national blogging post month will be a repost of the very first blog entry i ever posted, on bloglines (which is going away forever as of november 15). (is it really cheating to post something you’ve written somewhere else a long time ago?) i’ve tried to leave the entry as i wrote it on march 14, 2006. however, i did fix a couple of typos and i added in a few links that were not there previously. it’s interesting to see how far i’ve come in the nearly 5 years i’ve been blogging (first at bloglines, then setting up impolite conversation at blogger, and now migrating over to wordpress.com, and i plan to migrate again within a couple of months to a self-hosted wp blog), and how my thought processes have changed and not changed. i have a few other items from the bloglines blog (books music food) that i plan to repost on those days when the muse is settling in for a long winter’s nap. but for now, here’s the one that started it all. (and for the record, my opinions on the role of the devil, mentioned prominently below, have changed somewhat since this original writing. but only somewhat.)

blogging at the end of the world (… or damn, why didn’t i start blogging sooner?)

this is my inaugural foray into the world of blogging.  this may be something i do daily, or once a year, but most likely the frequency will fall somewhere in between the two extremes.  the things that make my heart beat fast are books and music and good food, so those things will probably be the focus of my writings, but i will also delve into religion, politics, sex, relationships, poetry, sports, racial issues, the war in iraq, and anything else that happens to present itself to me. 

so… i am currently obsessed with the writings of andrei codrescu, npr commentator, essayist, novelist, poet, and generally a thought provoking human being.  i love it when my two very favorite topics of religion and sex intersect, and in what i’ve read of his work so far, they not only intersect, they collide.  over the last couple of weeks, i’ve completed the novels wakefield and messiah, and am in the process of reading hail babylon! in search of the american city at the end of the millennium and the devil never sleeps and other essays. i just recently paid attention to him for the first time through an interview on what is enligtenment? magazine’s website. i found him very relatable as far as  some points he made about spirituality and american society, so i thought i’d try one of his novels to begin with. i’m a huge tom robbins fan and when i read robbins’ recommendations on the jackets of these particular novels, i knew that codrescu was someone i needed to take a good look at.  it turned out that both of these books were everything i could ever want in a novel (with the possible exception of the ending of messiah – not entirely happy with the way it ended, but i don’t know how it could have ended any differently).  both books made me laugh out loud, made me cry, made me squeamish, made me horny, but most importantly, made me think.

one of these continually evolving thoughts fed by these particular books is the role of the devil in our lives.  first off, let it be known that i am no big fan of the devil.  i come from a fundamentalist christian history, and while i no longer self-identify with those beliefs, i do believe that the devil is a real and powerful being.  however, he is not an equal with god, as i think many christians believe, and therefore have the tendency to blame him for everything bad that happens in their lives.  he is a creation of god, just as we all are (more on this in a moment).  anyway, in both books, the devil himself plays a central role.  basically in wakefield, the devil is the catalyst for wakefield (the main character, with one name, similar to madonna in that regard) to ‘get a life’.  but more interestingly, in messiah, i see him being portrayed as  being in charge of making life interesting for us here on earth.  he makes the excellent point that if life were all good or all evil, we’d basically be bored to tears. (i used to wonder this about being in heaven for eternity; i mean, being happy all the time, with no dramas or crises, wouldn’t that get boring after a few hundred thousand years?)  ultimately in messiah, the devil is the one who prevents the apocalypse from happening, namely because he likes the way things are here on earth now. (well i guess if you were going to be locked away in a bottomless pit for 1000 years after the apocalypse, you’d like it here on earth currently too.)  (and as for all this control that the devil seems to have in this story, apparently god, after having set things in motion, is just looking in on us and not really interfering unless asked.)

okay, i’m not saying that the devil is this being with our best interests at heart, but i have come to see him as another creation of god, as stated earlier.  as created beings, aren’t we all created in the image of god?  i believe that we are all little localized pieces or aspects of god, so would that not be true of lucifer also?  in other words, i guess i’m saying that god has a dark side that most are just not openly willing to acknowledge.  but how would we know what good is without evil, light without darkness, or sweetness without sourness?  it is the ugly that makes the beautiful worthwhile and transformative to us, and not just another day in paradise.  if god is all-knowing and all-encompassing, then he (and i use that pronoun loosely) knew what he was doing by even creating lucifer in the first place.

i believe this is one of the key messages in messiah, that the bad in life is necessary to appreciate the good, and that what appears to be good (major notz, felicity’s uncle, for example) can be evil, and what looks evil (the shades, a group of unemployed stoners) can be good.  it also illustrates something that i’ve believed for awhile (which i’ll probably touch on in future posts), that people make decisions and do things based on what they know and on their level of consciousness.  this doesn’t dismiss right and wrong (i mean, hitler was obviously horribly wrong with all the horrors he wrought upon the world, but even he was operating from what he knew; his actions did not just happen in a vacuum), but just means that people do what they think they need to do to get by, whether it’s to scratch an itch on the physical level or to satisfy an ego need.

i could go on with thoughts about these two books for a long while.  this means that these meet at least one of the criteria of a good novel, as they have made me think long after i’ve closed the pages.  i’m sure i will bring up other aspects of these stories from time to time, but there are plenty of other things in my world to write about.  i’m off to explore some more of those things now.

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why i am still a christian

i’ve been thinking a lot about a conversation i had with a friend a couple of days ago. i say conversation, but after she made the remark i’m about to discuss, the conversation pretty much ended, because i really didn’t know what to say. she was talking about someone at her church who in talking about his walk with god said that he had known god all his life, and had started getting to know god’s son just a couple of years ago. my friend said, ‘it’s impossible to know god apart from christ.’

not so many years ago, i would have had a similar response. i believed that if you didn’t acknowledge that jesus died on the cross for *your* sins and that he was the only son of god, you were doomed to spend eternity in hell, no matter how *good* you might have appeared in this life. i lived, worked, and socialized with people who believed similarly.

then i read why christianity must change or die by john shelby spong and it literally changed my life. this was actually the second time i had tried to read it, as the first time it really made me angry. spong wrote all sorts of things in this book that went against everything i had been taught before and after i had gotten ‘saved’. the second time i read it, it also made me angry, but not because this supposed bishop was insulting my faith; this time i was angry at everyone involved with the church. i felt i had been lied to all my life about what i was ‘supposed’ to believe. but should i really be angry at those who taught me just what they had been taught? shouldn’t i be mad at the institution instead? but then, isn’t it pointless to be mad at some formless entity existing for hundreds of years previously? i didn’t know who or what to believe. one of the key things that got to me was spong’s assertion that jesus’ entire life story was really just an amalgamation of various pagan myths that had existed for thousands of years previously. i did the research (on the internet of course) and found that there was truth to what he was saying. so where did this leave me as far as my faith that i had built my life around?

i threw my hands in the air and literally said to god, ‘all i want to know is the truth.’ and i felt a reply from him/her in my heart: ‘now we can begin.’ we’re beginning after i’ve been a christian for more than 15 years? well, you know, a day is as 1000 years with god, so this 15 years was a blink of the eye, i suppose. anyway, for a short while, i had to walk away from it all, and explore god outside the christian ghetto.

i explored eastern philosophy for the first time and discovered a god more encompassing than the anthropomorphic god of judeo-christianity. i studied women’s spirituality and discovered that wiccans were not a bunch of devil worshipping lesbians as i had been led to believe, but show a reverence for god’s creation that many christians dismiss because ‘it’s all gonna burn anyway.’ i looked at islam, in particular sufism, and found the beginnings of true intimacy with god, an intimacy that just isn’t possible if you’re being made to feel guilty for every wayward thought you might have.

some people might call what i have a cut-and-paste spirituality, because i am at the point where i have taken what i believe to be the best of various world religions and am forging my own path. the work of ken wilber has been vital in helping me to bring it all together. outside of christianity, i most closely identify with sufism, because of the love i have for god that is inexplicable to any other person but god, and the vedanta branch of hinduism, because i believe that everything, good and bad, light and dark, it all points back to god. (i am always amazed at how in christianity many issues are posed as god vs. satan, without any acknowledgement that it was god who created satan in the first place. with god as creator, it seems that me that god is responsible for the existence of good and evil.) however, i still self-identify as a christian, and it’s not because of john3:16, or acts 2:38, which was drilled into my head as being the only way to get to heaven. to be honest, these days i am questioning whether a real flesh-and-blood jesus ever actually existed. but, the things he espoused, they do exist, things about how to treat one another and what our relationship with god can be. i believe that the life of jesus, including his crucifixion and resurrection, is a metaphor for the way we should live our lives. his death was our own dying to our egos and desires; his resurrection was our waking up to a new way of living and relating to god, and realizing our own divinity as a part of god. i can call myself a christian because i believe in what jesus taught and how he lived. unlike my friend that i mentioned at the beginning, it’s not a matter of knowing god because jesus took my place on the cross, it’s that jesus shows me how i can know god just like he did, and that we are, according to romans 8:17, joint heirs in christ of all that god has to give.

having said all that, the main reason i remain a christian is that it is what i know best. this is how i was raised and how i chose to spend a good part of my 20s and early 30s (being immersed in the christian ghetto). i am using practices from other traditions, but christianity is just as viable a way to know god as any other tradition. buddhism or hinduism or paganism might sound and look more exotic, but i don’t really care what it looks like. the underlying passion behind everything i do is to know god (believe it or not), and i believe that, for me, christ’s teachings (in combination with sufi and vedanta teachings) are the best way to work towards that.

now if only i weren’t such a chickenshit and could start this conversation with my friend…