Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Prom Dates and Career Choices

You often hear it said there's no use in crying over spilled milk. Perhaps this is true. But ruminating over it and imagining ways to prevent it from spilling in the future may be valuable.

Just recently there have been a series of stories of gay youth and their respective prom dates. The gist of these stories in my opinion is not about the remaining discrimination and ignorance that gays face — instead, it is about how damn far we've come. Youth today by and large do not discriminate. Gays are accepted by their peers. That's a long, long way from a quarter of a century ago when I was in high school.

I hated school. My hatred of my scholastic career began at the tender age of thirteen in the sixth grade. I look back now and realize I was robbed. My future was stolen. I resist playing the victim card, but I have to say that the amount of bullying and torment I was subjected to at that early age played a decisive role in the person that I have become and the possibilities I've been afforded. It could have been far worse. I could have simply committed suicide. There were many times I considered it. And my sexuality played the biggest role.

Funny thing, I was a good student. I was above average intelligence, creative and inquisitive about the world. Yet I was stifled due to the lack of acceptance of a fundamental part of who I was and who I am. My parents were supportive, although their religious views did not embrace the idea of a gay child. I was moved out of the hateful middle school I attended, and I was placed in a more supportive school during the eighth grade. It made a huge difference in my life in terms of finding friendship and support — regardless of the fact it was a religious school. But by high school I had given up. The damage was done.

Little did I know that University would likely have provided me so many means of coming to terms with myself and developing as an individual. I just figured it would be an extension of high school — and I was not having that! Unfortunately my parents did not have the foresight, since they had no direct experience of college themselves. So I ended up following my Dad in the family business — a business that I was able to develop a good amount of skill and knowledge in — yet a business that I was not passionate about. I enjoyed making decent money, but even in that regard I lacked a fundamental education and found myself at the end of two decades without anything to show for all my work and dedication. I found myself in a dead-end clerical job where I have worked essentially as an indentured servant for the past six years. I'd say that the benefits are good, but it is nothing less than velvet handcuffs. Had the benefits not been there I may have been forced to find something more fitting to my level of experience. Nonetheless, this is the metaphorical "spilled milk".

But I wonder how my life would have been different if the world I grew up in had accepted me for who I was. In such a parallel world, who would Geoffrey have become? What career(s) would I have chosen? What level of scholarship would I have attained? What kind of husband and family would I now have? Where might I have traveled? How might I have been involved in and/or recognized in my community?

I think I can rightly answer that my life would have been far better and with many more opportunities. I think I would have made more intelligent decisions about the people I chose to love, the places I decided to go, the ways I could have invested my money and the things I did for a living. But you can never know for certain. And since it's all hindsight, this is the life I have lived, and there's no point in regretting it — what's the point anyhow?

The point is: We don't let these injustices continue! We stop killing the creative spark in our children! We abandon our ridiculous and barbaric superstitious beliefs! We allow each other to develop fully! That's the whole fucking point to this rant. Am I bitter? You'd better goddamn believe it.

But good for these kids nowadays! I take some solace in the fact that two high school boys can each be dates at their prom, in a small town, in the south of all places — and their classmates cheer them on! At least there is hope for the future.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Where's the Baby?

You've heard the proverb, "Don't throw out the baby with the bath water". As an Episcopalian, I have heard it used in reference to other Protestant denominations. Episcopalians retained the Liturgy and many other cults of the Catholic Church. Some of which is undeniably "bath water". Now, I say I am an Episcopalian in order to identify with a particular Christian heritage, which has helped mold me into the person I am presently. Prior to the age of sixteen, my Christian upbringing was decidedly more Evangelical. Regardless of the fact that Evangelical belief left an indelible mark on me, I stopped identifying with such a very long time ago.

And that leads me to the thoughts I've been struggling with since my public declaration of my atheism over a year ago. I've been pouring out an awful lot of stinky bath water, and wondering if indeed there is any baby lurking within it at all! Thrice I have attended an Episcopal service since my declaration — twice during Advent and just yesterday on Easter morning. On every occasion I was entranced with the homiletics. On one occasion I attended an Anglo-Catholic parish where I felt the level of "worship" was palpable — it even brought me to tears. Of course, any good production can do that. But each time I walk away, I walk away as a skeptic, but somehow thankful for my church. I still identify with it, and it still speaks to me in some mysterious way.

Surprisingly to some, I believe most atheists/agnostics struggle with "spirituality". We have many tools at our disposal. There is a sense of "community". We can meet and philosophize. Yet we don't have this ancient structure behind us — no awe-inspiring edifice — no Liturgy — imbued with the divine music of Johann Sebastian Bach! I wonder if such a community of skeptics could ever be built. And I wonder if it would inspire people the way religions have. What is it that religion offers? Where is the Baby?

The message I hear emanating behind the pulpits of the mainstream protestant denominations is one that most intelligent, and reasoning individuals can identify with. Yet mainstream protestantism seems to be losing steam. Instead, the Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Fundamentalist Christians are not only gaining huge strides, but their beliefs are becoming more entrenched and intolerant. I'm afraid that the mere existence of moderate, tolerant and liberal Christians only lends credence to these "fringe" groups. I say "fringe", but frankly it is rapidly becoming the accepted view of Christianity among believers and non-believers alike.

When I listen to the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and all the other self-declared spokespeople for his Divine Majesty, I cannot help but feel we pertain to entirely different religions. Such Christianity to me is unrecognizable. I suppose a literal reading of scripture, ignorance of scientific progress over the last several centuries, and profound lack of historical knowledge compounded with a complete disregard for comparative religious study might indeed lead one to such a radical view. However, even so, it is blatantly obvious that the literal interpretations of scripture have been carefully chosen so as not to offend some groups and to oppress others. Specifically, gay people are targeted in a horrific way. Yet divorcees are allowed. Women can be preachers. The membership is not required to keep Kosher. I could go on, but it's pointless. There is no arguing with these people.

Yet I know there is a Baby. And as a matter of fact, much of my secular humanism and my political egalitarianism is based upon the recognition of that Baby. I believe we are all equal under the law. I believe the face of the Divine is in each of us. I believe an injustice committed against one is an injustice against all. I believe human life is sacred (I am also in favor of a woman's right over her body). I believe we are still in an evolutionary process, and our faculties of reason and science and technology should be used to better all of humanity and the marvelous sphere we live upon. So I continue to believe in the Incarnation, albeit in an extremely metaphorical sense. I also believe in the Resurrection in the same way. Life goes on. New life can begin. This is a message of hope.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

What's not Conservative about Conservation?

I haven't been paying much attention to the likes of Sarah Palin and her ilk, the Teabaggers. However, it's next to impossible to ignore them. Thanks in particular to the "lamestream" media they purport to disdain. In my estimation they consist largely of a group of ill-informed, semi-literate, paranoid-delusional types, which unfortunately make up a significant minority in this country. I'd throw the words racist and xenophobic in the mix as well, but I'll suffice to say paranoid-delusional covers such attributes. Logic is obviously not one of their strong suits, so any attempt at dialogue is in vain.

But supposing for a moment it were possible to have an elucidative conversation with one of them, there is one question on my mind that I'd love to ask. "What's not conservative about conservation"?

I keep hearing how these folks won't give up their S.U.V.'s. They brag outright about how "big" their carbon footprints are, as if they were high school jocks in a locker room comparing dick sizes! They claim that climate change is a hoax, regardless of the profusion of scientific evidence that proves it. Regardless of their fear of "foreigners", they continue to support Big Oil. Do they not know where most petroleum is drilled? It's enough to make one cry out of irrational exhaustion.

What part of conservation do they not get? Do they not understand how this benefits them? Save your money, do not be wasteful. Keep the environment pristine. Theses ARE conservative values! It's just insane!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Happy Good Friday?

Good Friday today. Not that it has any particular spiritual meaning to me anymore. Yet I find myself reflecting upon it. Jesus was more than likely a slightly deranged character who ran afoul of the religious and political authorities of his day. Apparently the majority of his friends and followers abandoned him in the hour of his greatest need (many of us can relate). He was tortured, mocked and publicly executed in one of the most horrific ways humanity has ever imagined. It is a terrible and sad story. It is also something that humanity has repeated millions of times over hence. As a matter of fact, the Church in particular had developed such torture and execution to a bit of a fine, albeit evil art during the centuries of the Inquisition. And of course the Jews, or Christ killers, were selected as a special group for society's derision. So it is of little surprise that Catholics are almost obsessed by this day where at least subconsciously they express their collective guilt.

Of course, we simply wait three days for the good news that Jesus actually didn't die on the cross and is alive. Pretty impressive. Now later on theologically speaking, it is determined that Jesus actually went on a little foray and descended to the depths of Sheol to offer forgiveness and redemption to all the souls of the departed before he popped back up to Palestine to eat some fish and socialize with his friends before being "beamed up" into Heaven where he currently sits upon a throne next to his Papa Yahweh to judge Heaven and Earth at the end of all Time. Now that's just beyond incredible! (and also why the study of Theology eventually led me to atheism).

Nonetheless, it is worthy of reflection that humanity is capable of doing horrible things to one another. The Jesus movement of his day could have posed a threat to the authorities — and that's just something you don't do unless you have a tinge of a Messianic complex! Jesus was really a rather harmless fellow who taught some pretty crazy ideas — many of which are certainly worthy of debate — such as selling off all one's possessions and leaving one's family! Yet many of Jesus' words were kind and wise advice. Yet one wonders if he were to come back today if we wouldn't kill him again? Indeed, metaphorically speaking, we have in the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many others. We don't like the message of peace and brotherhood, so we simply shoot the messenger. Maybe in the future some religious sect will wear little golden handguns around their necks?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

I'm Back!

Been away for a while. But I plan on slowly easing back into the blogging thing. I think that I will likely expand upon the Carfree theme, and include whatever I find interesting. So this will be more like therapy. I figure my readership is virtually nil, so I'm not doing this for any other reason than my own personal edification. If others find it attractive and wish to drop by and comment, that would be nice yet unnecessary.