Eating Popcorn With A Spoon

30 August 2005

Defining God

For the past few days I've been searching for articles on the topic of defining god. Really haven't found anything of interest. I was always inspired by the Tao Te Ching attributed to Lao Tzu. I think any concept of god gets bogged down in words. God, at present, seems to be something beyond the physical realm, yet, which can somehow interact with the physical world. God is beyond space and time, yet, can be part of it.

I don't know why I just won't let go of the god concept, but I won't. However, feel free to leave a comment with your concept of god. I'm off to the The Religious Movements Homepage Project to ponder over this god thing some more.

29 August 2005

Meaning of Life

Was listening to Bob and Tom this morning, and they pointed out that 2005 is the Year of the Physicist. So, in recognition of all the fine work done by Physicists over the years, I give you the Meaning of Life.

Why are we here, what is life all about?
Is God really real, or is there some doubt?
Well tonight we're going to sort it all out,
For tonight it's the Meaning of Life.

What's the point of all these hoax?
Is it the chicken and egg time, are we all just yolks?
Or perhaps, we're just one of God's little jokes,
Well ca c'est the Meaning of Life.

Is life just a game where we make up the rules
While we're searching for something to say
Or are we just simple spiralling coils
Of self-replicating DNA?

What is life? What is our fate?
Is there Heaven and Hell? Do we reincarnate?
Is mankind evolving or is it too late?
Well tonight here's the Meaning of Life.

For millions this life is a sad vale of tears
Sitting round with really nothing to say
While scientists say we're just simply spiralling coils
Of self-replicating DNA.

So just why, why are we here?
And just what, what, what, what do we fear?
Well ce soir, for a change, it will all be made clear,
For this is the Meaning of Life - c'est le sens de la vie -
This is the Meaning of Life.


And here is my favorite - The Galaxy Song:

Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown,
And things seem hard or tough,
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft,
And you feel that you've had quite enough,

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And reolving at nine thousand miles an hour.
It's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,
'Round the sun that is the source of all our power.
Now the sun, and you and me, and all the stars that we can see,
Are moving at a million miles a day,
In the outer spiral arm, at fourteen thousand miles an hour,
Of a galaxy we call the Milky Way.

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred million stars;
It's a hundred thousand light-years side to side;
It bulges in the middle sixteen thousand light-years thick,
But out by us it's just three thousand light-years wide.
We're thirty thousand light-years from Galactic Central Point,
We go 'round every two hundred million years;
And our galaxy itself is one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.

Our universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding,
In all of the directions it can whiz;
As fast as it can go, that's the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth;
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!


Get more Monty Python at Pythonline.com

26 August 2005

pretty how town

Was about 20 years ago, I recall driving with a friend of mine through the city of Milwaukee. She had a book in her car. There I found a poem that changed my life. I was young and impressionable, and I'd never seen or heard anything quite like it before:


e.e. cummings - anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then) they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain


e.e. cummings was onto something. Poetry was being read in books rather than recited verbally. He was on the cutting edge of remaking the art of poetry. You really should check out at least one book by e.e. cummings.

25 August 2005

matrix of petty compromises

Yesterday was looking for some more info about a guy named David Brazier. He wrote a book that I recently read. I felt like I should like it, but couldn't. Very strange feeling. So, I hit the web to find out a bit more about him. Found this great quote in my search:
People's lives are a matrix of petty compromises.

(from an article called The Feeling Buddha)

Anyway, from that article, I also was able to locate a groovy website called Amida Trust. Sadly, these folks are over in England, and I'm here in the good ol' U.S.A.. But one can read the article called Buddhist Basics & the Amida Approach (and I love the nontraditional page layout). Here is an excerpt:
It is enlightened to be willing to investigate and change one's mind as a result of observing evidence. In regard to practice, the buddha was inclined to say, "Do what works" and in regard to doctrine, he would have said "Hold it lightly". This is quite scientific: don't yield a good idea too easily, but don't close your mind to evidence either.

24 August 2005

Satchel Paige

Today started trying to find the source of the quote:
"Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching."


Wasn't as easy as I thought, as there are many subtle variations, each attributed to different people. Go figure. Best I can tell, Satchel Paige is as close to the original as one can discern.

Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige was a baseball player starting back in 1926. You can read more at the wiki entry for Satchel Paige.

I best estimate him as the author based on the time frame and some of his other quotes:


"Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter."

"My feet ain't got nothing to do with my nickname, but when folks get it in their heads that a feller's got big feet, soon the feet start looking big."

"Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common."

"Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines."

"You win a few, you lose a few. Some get rained out. But you got to dress for all of them."



See more at The Official Satchel Paige Quote Page. And if you skipped reading about him above, here is Satchel's bio from the official homepage.

23 August 2005

Damn, even sweet Buddhists are evil

I never knew that Buddhists taught the concept of "Hell". But, sadly, I was wrong. And they have many hells :( So, here is the post for today:

From Buddhist Text Earth Store (Ksitigarbha) Bodhisattva Suttra

Part Two of Sutra of the Past Vows
of Earth Store Bodhisattva

Names of Hells

At that time Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, Mahasattva said to Earth Store Bodhisattva, "Humane One, for the sake of gods and dragons, those in the Fourfold Assembly, and all other beings of the present and future, please tell us the names of the hells where beings in the Saha world on the continent of Jambudvipa must suffer retributions for offenses they commit.

Please also describe what happens during retributions undergone for evil deeds so that beings in the future Dharma Ending Age will know what those retributions are."

Earth Store Bodhisattva replied, "Humane One, based on the awesome spiritual power of the Buddha and relying on your strength, Great Bodhisattva, I will give a general list of the names of hells and describe some of what happens during retributions undergone for offenses and evil deeds.

"Humane One, in Eastern Jambudvipa is mountain range called Iron Ring. The mountain is pitch black because the light of sun and moon do not shine on it. A great hell is located there named Ultimately Relentless. Another hell is called Great Avichi.

There is also a hell called Four Horns, a hell called Flying Knives, a hell called Fiery Arrows, a hell called Squeezing Mountains,

a hell called Piercing Spears, a hell called Iron Carts,
a hell called Iron Beds, a hell called Iron Oxen,
a hell called Iron Clothing, a hell called Thousand Blades,
a hell called Iron Asses, a hell called Molten Copper,
a hell called Embracing Pillar, a hell called Flowing Fire,
a hell called Plowing Tongues, a hell called Hacking Heads,
a hell called Burning Feet, a hell called Pecking Eyes,
a hell called Iron Pellets, a hell called Quarreling,
a hell called Iron Ax, and a hell called Massive Hatred."

Earth Store Bodhisattva said, "Humane One, within the Iron Ring are endless hells like that.

There is also the hell of Crying Out, the hell of Pulling Tongues,
the hell of Dung and Urine, the hell of Copper Locks,
the hell of Fire Elephants, the hell of Fire Dogs,
the hell of Fire Horses, the hell of Fire Oxen,
the hell of Fire Mountains, the hell of Fire Rocks,
the hell of Fire Beds, the hell of Fire Beams,
the hell of Fire Eagles, the hell of Sawing Teeth,
the hell of Flaying Skin, the hell of Drinking Blood,
the hell of Burning Hands, the hell of Burning Feet,
the hell of Hanging Hooks, the hell of Fire Rooms,
the hell of Iron Cells, and the hell of Fire Wolves.

"Each of those hells contains lesser hells numbering from one, or two, or three, or four, to hundreds of thousands. Each of those lesser hells has its own name."

Earth Store Bodhisattva told Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, "Humane One, such are the karmic responses of beings in Jambudvipa who commit evil deeds.

The power of karma is extremely great. It rivals Mount Sumeru in its heights. It surpasses the great oceans in its depth. It obstructs the path leading to Sagehood. For that reason, beings should never think that minor bad deeds are unimportant or assume that they do not count as offenses. After death there will be retributions to undergo that cover all those details.

Fathers and sons have the closest relationship, but their roads diverge and each must go his own way. Even if they met, neither would consent to undergo suffering in the other's place.

Now, based on the awesome spiritual power of the Buddha, I will describe some of the retributions for offenses that take place in the hells. Please, Humane One, listen for a moment to what I am going to say."

Universal Worthy replied, "I have long known of the retributions that happen in the Three Evil Paths. My hope in asking the Humane One to describe them is that when beings in the future Dharma Ending Age who are doing evil deeds hear the Humane One's descriptions they will be moved to take refuge with the Buddha."

Earth Store said, "Humane One, this is what happens during retributions in the hells. Offenders may go to a hell in which their tongues are stretched out and plowed through by cattle;
or to a hell in which their hearts pulled out and eaten by Yakshas;
or to a hell in which their bodies are cooked In cauldrons of boiling liquid;
or to a hell in which they are forced to embrace red-hot copper pillars;
or to a hell in which they are burned by fire that constantly pursues them;
or to a hell in which cold and Ice are all-pervasive;
or to a hell in which excrement and urine are endless;
or to a hell in which flying maces are unavoidable;
or to a hell in which fiery spears stab them repeatedly;
or to a hell in which they are constantly beaten on the chests and backs;
or to a hell in which their hands and feet are burned;
or to a hell in which they are bound by Iron snakes that coil around them;
or to a hell in which they are pursued by racing Iron dogs;
or to a hell in which their bodies are stretched by Iron mules.

"Humane One, to inflict these retributions in each hell hundreds of thousands of instruments made of copper, iron, stone, or fire arise from karmic force. Those four materials come into being in response to the kinds of karma offenders created.

If I were to explain in detail what happens during retributions in the hells, then I would need to tell of the hundreds of thousands of sufferings that must be undergone in each specific hell. How much more would that be the case for the sufferings in all the many hells!

Now, having based myself upon the awesome spiritual power of the Buddha, I have given a general answer to the Humane One's question, for if I were to speak in detail, it would take eons."

21 August 2005

Vital Statistics: Religion

Just ran across this sad tidbit at:
Vital Statistics: Religion

Name of the "John 3:16" guy at 1980s sporting events:
Rollen Stewart

Stewart gained fame in the 1980s by being shown on television at hundreds of sporting events holding signs reading "John 3:16." (For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son...") In 1992, Stewart was arrested on a kidnapping charge, and is currently serving a life sentence in a California prison.

Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/1/1994


You can find more trivia at vitalstatistics.info

18 August 2005

All That Matters is Waves

Spherical In-Wave
Was saving this topic for later, but a thread I started in a Buddhist forum had me googling for "quantum physics", and I came upon something I think you may enjoy.

As you may know, there are various theories that suggest all matter is composed of waves. If you were unaware, you may ponder in silence for a moment...

Ok, anyway, here is some philosophy for today.

17 August 2005

End Of Summer Reading

I wasted my summer reading forums and low grade online articles. So, now I'm cramming in some dead trees.

In front of me I have: The New Buddhism, 365 Zen, and Teachings Around the Sacred Wheel. Really excited about that Sacred Wheel thing, but I'm saving it for last. From the preface:
I am a woman of the twentieth century, a white woman living in an urban setting and in an era in which we have lost our traditions, our ceremonies, our rituals. In losing touch with these ancient circles of mystery, which were once the gateways to uncommon dimensions of reality, we have lost touch with the wilderness of our own spirit

Granted, I disagree with the sentiment. I feel we have rituals and all the other goodness, we just fail to recognize the beauty of what we have. But I think the book should give some good ideas.

Also on my reading list, (thanks to the guys at SilverBullet Comics) I have compiled a little list of comic books to read. To name just a few: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1, Daredevil: Born Again, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

So, I'm a busy little beaver. Feel free to peruse the old posts here and try to make some sense of them (-: My eyes need a break form the computer screen for a couple days. If you're not up for the chore of reading my sloppy writing, and you don't want to buy a book online, and you're too lazy to go to the library or comic book store, may I suggest reading DISCOURSES by Meher Baba (and here is some background on the baba :P) (My todo list contains a roundtuit of creating a post regarding all those in the past couple hundred years who thought themselves god or there abouts -- Meher, at present is the most interesting of the bunch.)

12 August 2005

Faith

Yesterday, after much bashing the primary theist religions, I promised to write about my "religion". I probably should have thought about what I was going to say before sitting at the keyboard, but, anyway, here comes the stream of consciousness...

Of course, listening to the Grateful Dead, August 24th, 1980 to be exact. And got myself a can of Miller beer on this Friday morning. I think Red said it best in Shawshank Redemption:
We sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men. Hell, we could have been tarring the roof of one of our own houses. We were the lords of all creation. As for Andy - he spent that break hunkered in the shade, a strange little smile on his face, watching us drink his beer.

Just something about a cold beer on a hot day. For those who think it's silly, I'll add something a bit more "upscale" to increase the snob factor:

Carl Sandburg - Happiness
I asked the professors
who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives
who boss the work of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile
as though I was trying to fool with them.
And then one Sunday afternoon
I wandered out along the Desplaines river.
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees
with their women and children
and a keg of beer and an accordion.


Probably singing the "Hokey Pokey" (-:

So, what does this have to do with religion? Only everything. Religion is a warm friendly conversation.

But what about "church"? I think Jesus best summed up prayer:
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your god, who is unseen. Then your god, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the nations, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your god knows what you need before you ask him.


Here in lies the catch. Just what is God, or are there many gods? I don't know. I feel I should care, because if there is a god or gods, getting things right should be of utmost importance, I'd think.

So, let's have a little background... A new religion has been started. It's me and just a couple of friends. We call our religion "Faith". We have a "prophet", her name is Ann. She didn't volunteer, I just told her that she was "the prophet". She has a good sense of humor about it. That's important. She hasn't quite decided on this god part yet. That's not so important, which completely contradicts the previous paragraph, so as to set up my babblings. Let me explain...

What do we know? We have history, we all have a conscience, we have people who study ethics, and we have role models. From this we can form a pretty good moral foundation. We don't need a god to lay down eternal guidelines.

Religion in the past was often used to explain the natural world. Now we have scientific methods, models of thought, and philosophical discourse. Quite simply, if I cut myself, I'm going to the hospital to get stitches, and so would you. If I want to know about a flower, I'm going to read a book, or talk to a person, or maybe just meditate on my own.

Here I've just covered many points of life, albeit rather indirectly, yet a god does not enter the picture. We have what we need.

Here is a "straw dog" -- people say God should make things clear to us just what is expected. Hey, things are pretty clear! Not perfect, but we're not perfect people. Why should god make a perfect religion for imperfect people. No. We have an imperfect religion for imperfect people.

I think God did a GREAT job. It's just all these people running around claiming to speak on Gods behalf who have confounded matters.

Here comes another "straw dog" -- life is just too organized to be a big mistake. These factors couldn't have happened by chance. Sound familiar? Great, you have just reduced god to a gamble, a chance, a probability. And guess what -- you lose, big time with a big fat exponentially large mental debt. If life is too organized to be an accident, the chances are even less that something even more complex exists by accident. shake head. I see probability a bit different from most. Common example is the lottery. What are your chances of winning? One in a million? I think that is the wrong way to look at things. Depending on the type of lottery, the chance may be 100% that someone will win, while others might be 1 in 10 or some such other small ratio. It's not if YOU will win, it's if SOMEONE will win. Life is here. We won, whoop dee doo. 100% certainty, cogito ergo sum, baby. (see Descarte). Life is here, God has shown it to us, I'd say. And we've got lots of information. Try reading a book or two if you think we have nothing. If that's too much, watch a movie. Too impatient, listen to a song. Then try thinking a thought. God abounds.

Answers that aren't important, we don't know. Some questions aren't worth asking in our lifetime... BUT if you have a brain, by all means, pursue. More importantly, please also do the hokey pokey and eat popcorn with a spoon. That, my friend, is life, that is god.

You will find god in my frequently mentioned comic books. May you go to the local comic book store, talk to the clerk, and have the person help you find something that may be of interest to you. Maybe make yourself a new friend during the course of your comic book purchasing trips. Ain't no need to make this stuff complicated.

I've scattered enough unintelligible words already. The above themes will be rehashed ad nauseum. I ain't so smart when it comes to expressing stuff. This is why Ann is the prophet (-: But in parting, I'd like to share what we have decided on.
1) Everyone is a member of our religion called "faith". Doesn't matter if you agree with the thoughts presented above. It's not a choice for you to make. Everyone is in, but everyone has different portions of the gross sum of knowledge, and on different waves of opinion. Wait. Let us take the assumption that there is a god or gods. How could we not belong to its or their religion? If we are in the domain of a god or gods, we are part of the religion. No joining, no quiting, no magic words or rituals. You are in. (I blame Sartre and that "condemned to freedom" thing he had going.) So, to repeat needlessly, you are part of our religion.
2) Now that you are part of our religion, welcome. Feel free to tell others. Maybe some day we'll discuss freedom. It'll twist your brain into knots. I think it's a hoot. If that's not what you dig, that's cool too. Me, I like to water ski, catch a live baseball or basketball game, flirt with girls, those are the things that put into place abstract words like religion and freedom.
3) There has to be a three. As a member of "Faith", you make up point number three.

11 August 2005

Get to know the Muslims

Just ran across the website for the Middle East Media Research Institute. Wasn't planning on writting any more today, but this site just really got my goat.

There are several videos to watch at the MEMRI site. So far I've watched two of 'em.

For the women: The Muslim Woman Magazine - a three minute interview with a child. I'd suggest watching the video for the full impact, but here is the transcript:
Host: Our report today will be a little different, because our guest is a girl, a Muslim girl, but a true Muslim. Allah willing, may our God give us the strength to educate our children the same way, so that the next generation will turn out to be true Muslims who understand that they are Muslims and know who their enemies are. This girl will introduce herself immediately. She is the daughter of my sister in faith, and of the artist Wagdi Al-Arabi . Her name is Basmallah and we will ask her as well.

Questions and Answers

Host: Peace be upon you. Allah's mercy and blessing upon you. What's your name?
Basmallah: Basmallah.

Host: Basmallah, how old are you?
Basmallah: Three and a half.

Host: Are you a Muslim?
Basmallah: Yes.

Host: Basmallah, are you familiar with the Jews?
Basmallah: Yes.

Host: Do you like them?
Basmallah: No.

Host: Why don't you like them?
Basmallah: Because...

Host: Because they are what?
Basmallah: They're apes and pigs.

Host: Because they're apes and pigs? Who said they are so?
Basmallah: Our God.

Host: Where did he say this?
Basmallah: In the Koran.

Host: Right, he said that about them in the Koran. - Okay, Basmallah, what are the Jews doing?
Basmallah: The Pepsi company.

Host: You also know about the boycott, Basmallah? Did they love our master Muhammad?
Basmallah: No.

Host: No, what did the Jews do to him?
Basmallah: The Prophet Muhammad killed someone..

Host: Obviously, our master Muhammad was strong and could have killed them. All right, you know the traditions about the Jews and what they did to the Prophet Muhammad? Is there a story you know?
Basmallah: Yes, the story about the Jewish woman.

Host: The Jewish woman? What did she do to our master the Prophet Muhammad?
Basmallah: The Jewish woman?

Host: Yes.
Basmallah: There was a Jewish woman who invited the Prophet and his friends. When he asked her, 'Did you put poison (in my food)?' she said to him, 'Yes.' He asked her, 'Why did you do this?' and she replied: 'If you are a liar - you will die and Allah will not protect you; if you speak the truth - Allah will protect you.'

Host: And our God protected the Prophet Muhammad, of course.
Basmallah: And he said to his friends: 'I will kill this lady.'

Host: Of course, because she put poison in his food, this Jewess.

Host: Basmallah, Allah be praised, Basmallah, Allah be praised. May our God bless her. No one could wish Allah could give him a more believing girl than she… May Allah bless her and her father and mother. The next generation of children must be true Muslims. We must educate them now while they are still children so that they will be true Muslims.


And for the men: Sermons from Iraq which captures snippets of sacred Friday prayer time lectures complete with sword waving and screaming "kill the infidels wherever you find them" and more Jewish bashing.

I seperated the men and women in a sarcastic sort of way, as men and women have to pray separately, and are generally segregated in society :P I think both videos fall in the catagory of must see. I've seen these links in other forums, but this is the first that I've managed to take the time to find the source. If you've managed to watch the two videos listed above, and you have a strong stomach, visit MEMRI for more. I just can't take that much.

Some may rightly say these above examples are just the extremists. I've spent a year talking to muslims from the US and other countries. Some are quite nice in person, but when pushed, I have not yet met a single one who was willing to say that these teachings are not based in the scriptures that come DIRECTLY from God, and these people I know give me an eerie feeling of support for the hatred being spewed. (And, yes, some I've met face-to-face openly speak words of hatred and wish painful deaths for non-believers -- as mentioned, more than a few have even been happy to tell me that it is a known fact that I am going to hell - and multiply that by 10 when including online forums.)

The group that does honestly seem to be realistic (in regards to this matter of hating non-muslims) is an American foundation called the Submitters, but their leader was assassinated by a disgruntled "real" muslims who didn't like the message of tolerance. To date, I haven't met anyone who is openly associated with this group.

how to NOT read the Quran

For today I am stealing some ayat of the Quran I found in a post entitled how to NOT read the Quran. I'd suggest NOT reading the post, unless you are able to stomach huge gaps in logic, twisted thinking, pretentiousness and elitism... well, everything you can find right here in my blog, but I use smaller words (-:

Todays post may require a little thoughtful attention, because the reading is sort of bland, but the ideas, oh, the ideas, are very exciting. So, put on your thinking cap as we go onto the verses from God (or Allah, if you prefer):

We have made things clear in this Qur'an so that they might pay heed, but it only makes them run away the more!
(Surat al-Isra': 41)
Who could do greater wrong than someone who is reminded of the Signs of his Lord and then turns away from them, forgetting all that he has done before? We have placed covers on their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. Though you call them to guidance, they will nonetheless never be guided.
(Surat al-Kahf: 57)
When you recite the Qur'an, We place an obscuring veil between you and those who do not believe in the hereafter. We have placed covers on their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. When you mention your Lord alone in the Qur'an, they turn their backs and run away.
(Surat al-Isra': 45-46)
It is He who sent down the Book to you from Him: verses containing clear judgements - they are the core of the Book - and others which are open to interpretation. Those with deviation in their hearts follow what is open to interpretation in it, desiring conflict, seeking its inner meaning. No one knows its inner meaning but God. Those firmly rooted in knowledge say, 'We have faith in it. All of it is from our Lord.' But only people of intelligence pay heed.
(Surat Al 'Imran: 7)

So, all the above could better be summed up with these two:

"Mankind! Admonition has come to you from your Lord and also healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers."
(Surah Yunus: 57)
It (the Qur'an) only increases the wrongdoers in loss
(Surat Al Isra': 82)

Or this hadith also is quite snappy:

Abdur Rahman bin Abi Bakra's father narrated that the Prophet said: "If God wants to do good to a person, he makes him comprehend the religion"
(Bukhari 1/67)

So, what we have here, is that God (or Allah) covers the hearts of non-believers so they may never grasp the beauty of the Quran, which, as is noted, has an inner meaning only known to God. Wowzers. But for believers, well, they are the chosen ones who have it made with the big guy. But what about us unfortunates who Allah has put heaviness in our ears?

Who hears the Signs of God recited to him and then persists in his arrogance just as if he had never heard them. Give him the news of a
painful punishment
.
(Surat al-Jathiyah: 8)

What to do, what to do. I picked up a stack of books to read a bit about Islam. (I much prefer dead trees for my reading material :P) You can find them at dar-us-salam.com in a boxed set called Collection of 8 Books Explaining Islam. But if you don't want to fork over the $33, a mere $4.50 will get you the handy little Fortress of the Muslim. Of course these books have great propaganda value, and shelter you from some of the ugly behind the scenes aspects, but, reading them will help give you a general understanding of the common Islamer.

But, that's all just a prelude, leading to this phrase:
'A'oothu billaahi minash Shaytaanir rajeem.
I was instructed to recite that before reading the Quran (after washing myself etc -- many rules to follow when reading the Quran, these are the words of God, afterall).
Fortress of the Muslim translates the phrase as follows:

'A'oothu billaahi minash-Shaytaanir-rajeem

I seek refuge in Allah from Satan the outcast (then spit to your left). (Do this three times reciting in Arabic.)

Maybe because I didn't want to spit on my floor, the message didn't sink into my heart, or, maybe, the heart was just veiled by Allah, who knows. Didn't work for me.

But that's just more prelude, the point is coming, really, well, maybe. I think wisdom can be found in any collection of words if enough rules are applied, and enough abstract "reasoning" is incorporated.

My current weakly held opinion is that Jewish people heard the message of Jesus, and they GOT it. They didn't become "Christians"; they became better Jewish people. The Jewish scriptures have some hard to digest material. If one reads the phrases attributed to Jesus in the "New Testament", you find very nice little snippets. (I think if you take out all the surrounding commentary, you get a picture of a pretty cool dude, one who might visit jewsrock.org (-:

Maybe I'm just bitter because I wasn't born into the tribe of Judea. I don't believe that the entire world was flooded at the time of Noah, so I can't even claim to be decended from him. And I don't buy the story of Adam, so I won't even pretend that he is my great grandfather. I have no known Jewish roots. Damn. Face it, if you are a faithfilled person, you have to admit that, as a whole, the Jewish people are way cooler than your little group.

But maybe it's a good thing that I'm not Jewish, because then I don't have to justify all the claimed words of God. There are so many to chose from. Today I will just pick one Jewish scripture (oddly enough, copy and pasted from the Christian bible):

Marriage Violations

If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, "I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity," then the girl's father and mother shall bring proof that she was a virgin to the town elders at the gate. The girl's father will say to the elders, "I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, 'I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.' But here is the proof of my daughter's virginity." Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him.

Deuteronomy 22:13-18


digest THAT for a moment.

The muslims say the old books of Allah (Jewish scripture and the New Testament) are corrupted: They don't really say where or exactly how, just anything they disagree with is wrong. The Christians say the old rules don't apply since the coming of Jesus. Though most Christians tend to be keen on 10 of the hundreds of commandments, and are hard pressed to translate the wise words of Jesus when he said, "Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil." Go figure. Gods words say that it is best for the family to pop the cherry of a bride-to-be, and save the blood soaked cloth as proof, just in case the new hubbie questions her virginity, then have the elders punish him. Anyone else find that strange?

On second thought, maybe one should first read how to NOT read the Quran, and apply the reasoning whenever partaking the wisdom of your inspired words of choice.

Tomorrow, my religion. Stay tuned.

10 August 2005

Day of Resurrection?

I try to find at least one funny little tidbit every day. At present it is only 9:00-ish in the morning, and my day has been a doozy. So I hit Islam Q & A to find this question to make me laugh:

When the books of deeds fly to people’s hands on the Day of Resurrection, will the one who takes it in his right hand never enter Hell at all? And will the one who takes it in his left hand never enter Paradise at all? How will the people of Paradise who will be punished first in Hell take their books?

If you are so inclined, you can read the answer here:

How will the sinful Muslim take his book of deeds on the Day of Resurrection? (But you may need this glossary to get through some of the Arabic terms)

Personally, I just find the fact that someone bothered asking the question downright entertaining in a sick and twisted way. But I thought the subject ties in nicely with yesterdays aimless rambling about the Grateful Dead.

And it leads in nicely to a wonderful little "news clip" I received yesterday via e-mail. First, some background: Whenever anybody asks me the meaning of life, I have to smile. Every American, and probably a large number of other "English" speaking people already know the answer. They sing it starting in childhood -- "You do the hokey pokey, and you turn yourself around, THAT is what it's all about!!!" So keep that under your hat, or put it in your pipe and smoke it, or whatever, here is the news:


With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world
at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of
a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week.



Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey,"
died peacefully at age 93. The most traumatic part for
his family was getting him into the coffin. They put
his left leg in. And then the trouble started.


(-:


Since you are fortunate enough to still be alive and kicking, I'd suggest some popcorn with a spoon until you can find someone to do the hokey pokey with you.

09 August 2005

The Dead Were Dancing

For some reason many people are freaked out by the name "The Grateful Dead". They think the band is some death cult or something. Now, let's look into this a bit "furthur", shall we.

For me, the first thought that comes to mind is this:

The dead were rejoicing under their daisies--they all lie among the roots of the flowers of heaven


The passage comes from "Lilith" by George MacDonald back in 1895. I found the book hosted at churches.net (can't vouch for quality of the site, just found it via google). However, this is a very familiar theme to Christians and Muslims -- you want to be happy after you die. Right?

I haven't kept count, but over the past year I've joined several online relgious forums, and tried to state my opinion on the matter of religion without directly attacking the faith of anyone. (Although, by deduction, because I disagree with you, you could say I am attacking your beliefs. shrug.) I say I believe in some sort of god, although I haven't figured out just what god is. And I believe one should live a moral life, being kind and generous et al. Every place where I stated these opinions at least one person told me in full confidence that I am going to Hell. The opinion comes from books written or inspired by God, and the verses were typically cited for me. Now, I'm a pretty "Happy Go Lucky" sort of guy. Live and let live could be my motto, with "love your neighbor as yourself" as my moral compass. Damnation is rather confounding. But there you have it, Hell is listed 54 times in the King James version of the bible. (It gets a zero in the Young's Literal Translation, but that's an entirely different post.) And the Quran tells me I'm going to Hell a whopping 106 times! (With the Islamic ahadith, from a partial search of Bukhari, Abu-Dawud, and Muslim, giving me 363 more reasons why I'm destined for Hell.) If that doesn't scare the hell right out of you, I don't know what will (-:

So, I enjoy listening to the Grateful Dead. Go figure. If there is some sort of afterlife everyone would want to be happy. (I don't count "afterlife" as being eaten by bugs, or otherwise having your physical remains become part of something animate, because your conscious mind would presumably be gone if that's all there is -- but again, that's for another post.) Everyone who belives in an afterlife wants to be gratefully dead, I'd think. Sadly, I'm not so sure about this afterlife thing. However, that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of a groovy old rock and roll band, who, maybe, ironically sings "I may be going to hell in a bucket, but at least I'm enjoying the ride".

08 August 2005

March of the Penguins

Was browsing Slashdot this morning. Came across a thread on the movie March of the Penguins. Haven't seen the movie, so I can't comment on it...

But I read this hilarious little comment (for all you computer geeks out there):

Now you know..
by Bananatree3 on Monday August 08, @02:45AM

"The Penguins are a miraculous species, capable of extreme heroism, self-sacrifice, sorrow and unshakable love."

Now you know why the Penguin is Linux's mascot. It is reliable, unshakable, self-sacrificing (think of all those selfless developers working night and day around the world), extreme heroism (ok, that might be taking it a little too far...)

--

Re:Now you know..
by lxs on Monday August 08, @03:40AM

That's just typical of the Slashdot audience. How can you forget the sacrifices Windows made? It died for your sins. Sometimes three times a day.

If you don't have a clue, you can look at the Linux logo.

06 August 2005

Muslim Prayer and American TV

Saturday night, and, after going out for dinner with the family, I was looking forward to vegging in front of the TV tonight, and what a night it is. First got to watch Batman, then Justice League, now Tomb Raider. (Already babbled about my love of comics yesterday, and I assume it's a topic that will resurface, so I won't go into detail today :P)

For some reason my mind drifted while watching Tomb Raider... Muslims pray five times a day, and not just a few words, but a full formal ritual prayer. 2 reps in the morning, 4 reps at noon, 4 reps late afternoon, 3 reps at sunset, and 4 reps after dark. Then, throughout the day, there are various other reps for 9 other voluntary prayers in the same format as the mandatory prayer. All total there are 14 different times of day for this formal prayer! It's amazing. Think about all that one-on-one time with God. Each prayer is a monotonous, almost hypnotic, repetition of verses from the Quran and various others phrases supposedly in use from the time of Muhammad and/or Abraham. That's a lot of meditation.

Logic of Allah and historical accuracy of the Quran aside, Muslims have something going for them. They dedicate a lot of time to religion. Just think if you, the reader, took time out, five times a day, to write your thoughts, to focus on the deeper meanings of life, to do some deep breathing exercises, or to contemplate god or gods as you understand. I'm not talking about a quick ten second break, but a full formal ritual: You first wash up, you position yourself, you go through specific routines, up to 14 times a day, each time ranging from five to ten minutes after you are in place.

The typical American probably does put in that much time in front of the TV, and much of that time, the viewer probably is spaced out :) But imagine if your day was broken down into segments, and at least five times a day you had to recite, from memory, segments of a TV show, with a couple of commercials thrown in for good measure. And these same shows and commercials were recited generation after generation for a thousand years.

This post really doesn't have a point. It's just a drifting thought I decided to capture. I'll leave it up to you to do something with it, if you want. I'm going back to Tomb Raider, then going to read some Batman comics.

the fast food worker

You may be familiar with the "Mind of Mencia"; was watching it recently on Comedy Central. The monologue went something like this:
If you are a teenager working in a fast food place, that is great, you are learning some skills. If you are new to the country and working in a fast food place, that is great, you are getting accustomed to the new culture. If you are a 25 year old who was born and raised in America, and you are working at a fast food place, you are a retard.

Common theme held by many people. But let's think about this for a second. What is the most important part of life? I'd say food. Without food, there ain't no life. What do they do at restaurants? They give you food. These are very important people.

My guess at second most important thing is shelter, be it clothing or some form of housing. Do we respect people making our clothes? No, not really. How about those who do the labor of building. Not much more respect for them amoungst the non-labor crowd. Interesting.

I'd say the third most important part of life would be reproduction. (If you can't feed and shelter one, you will probably fail at providing for another.) However, for most, sex seems to be quite separated from reproduction.

One is free to completely disagree with my priorities. Although I think it's foolish. Better to disagree with my conclusion that we should respect people who provide us food, clothing and shelter.

A few days ago the Taco Bell near my home was giving away free tacos and cake for an anniversary. Well advertised for a month. The place is attached to a popular gas station which had signs posted on the doors and at the check out. I was the only one in the Taco Bell for the duration of my stay. I find it amazing that we live in a society where food was given away freely and no one was there to partake.

05 August 2005

BDcomics

BDcomics is a little blog I ran across today. I've had an interest in comic books the past couple of years, but could never bring myself to purchase the things :) However, someone pointed me to a little program called CDislplay which allows one to view scanned comic books. This girl also e-mailed me a couple of comic books that I could download, however she didn't offer me a good source of other books. A quick search lead me to BDcomics.

Granted, if you are geeky enough to figure out how to get everything working, well, you are probably geek enough to walk into a comic book store. However, if you are like me, and you just don't know where to start, and you don't want to throw away a lot of money learning, this combination is a solid start.

I am of the opinion that religious teachings are great if they are understood as myth. And I think comic books are more like the religious teachings of old. Comics have characters that are entertaining, and they are presented in a way that is relevant to our times. I think anyone willing to invest 10 minutes of thought will see the similarities. I'm also of the opinion that movies, music, and traditional books also serve the same purpose as those "holy books". But the comic books somehow are just more interesting.

Colossians 2:8 be damned :) It states, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." This old book just enforced traditions of the time, ignorantly assumed a limited world view, and introduced its own hollow and deceptive philosophy.

The biggest barrier I see in the world of comics is that there is such a huge gap between the geek and non-geek. I get the feeling when browsing comic forums that I am just too out of touch to even begin communicating with other readers of comics. But, now that I can read a few comics first, I have some degree of common ground to begin a chat for more meaningful conversation. Be forwarned, a couple of the comics that I've read may NOT be meant for little kids. Batman's "Killing Joke" comes to mind which has a rape (but let's be honest, the holy books of Islam, Christianity and Judaism all have there share of reality).

So, if you are ready to get yourself some reading material (and you are using Windows*):

Step 1 - download CDislplay. At present I don't know the first thing about the program, but I've read four comic books without knowing anything, so it's not a problem.

Step 2 - browse BDcomics and download some comics. This is the tricky part. None of the books are hosted at the site. Instead you get sent to a free host filled with ads. If you manage to hop through the hoops, it's worth the effort.

Step 3 - many of the comics are actually a collection of comic that first must be extracted. This gets really confusing. The files found at BDcomics often are rar files which first must be extracted, then you will find the cbr files inside. So, you will need a program to inspect the files downloaded to see what you got, and there may be some trial and error (some rar files merely need to be renamed with a cbr extention). Visit download.com and grab a free little utility to open rar files if your current computer setup lacks the ability (which is quite common on Windows XP). I am using ExtractNow to view the rar files. Lost yet?

Step 4 - if you have installed CDislplay and managed to get a cbr file or two from BDcomics, all you need to do is double click the cbr file to open the "comic book", and use your keyboards arrow keys and "Page Down" key to scroll through the pages.

If you manage to fight through all that, it's worth the time and effort, and you will be a smarter computer user if this all sounds foreign to you. I'd host the files myself in an easier to use format, but I fear this is all copyright violations :P So, maybe stopping at the local comic book shop and talking to the neighborhood geek may be easier :) But there are other options. If my above directions sound too damn hard, start visiting the pages linked above, do some reading, and walk through the process. Maybe run a quick search using some of the keywords on this page, and you will find a hidden gem or two that I have missed.

*If you don't have a Windows based computer, there are other programs to view these books. I personally do prefer a Macintosh these days. And I used Linux exclusively for the second half of the 90's. So, I can relate. A quick search will give you a few options.

Occam's Razor

Occam's Razor... Maybe it's just the discussion boards I've been visiting the past few months, but it seems that Occam's Razor is mentioned much too frequently. To steal from the above linked wikipedia article:

The simplest explanation is the best.

Works nicely in day to day life in many situations. But, we all can see that it's not a rule to which many people adhere. (e.g. it's easier to sit on the floor, yet everyone buys manufactured chairs.) I hear Occam's Razor frequently in the context of religion as espoused by atheists or the occasional diest, and always by the scientist-wannabe. However, I think the statement is the antithesis of science. Let's face it, if you were raised in a society that taught that a god was responsible for those things that weren't easily understood, well, to believe in god is the path of least resistance.



I'm of the opinion that challenge feeds the scientist desire. I have an annoying habit of citing the movie "They Might Be Giants" when I discuss science:

Dr. Watson: You're just like Don Quixote. You think that everything is always something else.

Justin Playfair: Well, he had a point. 'Course he carried it a bit too far. He thought that every windmill was a giant. That's insane. But, thinking that they might be, well... All the best minds used to think the world was flat. But what if it isn't? It might be round. And bread mold might be medicine. If we never looked at things and thought of what might be, why we'd all still be out there in the tall grass with the apes.

You have to ask "what might be" when approaching science.



Now, I fancy myself a theist of sorts. And I feel that science and faith should go hand in hand. But I also feel we need to redefine religion. The normal Joe on the street probably has a clue, but those preaching and teaching religion are out of touch with reality. I don't have the answer, however I feel it's fun to play "what if I were to make a new religion". A favorite site of mine is called Godchecker where you can research the myriad of gods that already exist.



My favorite "religion" is the Church of the Subgenius. They nicely have stated the basis of most theist faiths. May you google them now. If you just want a lifeless summary, you can read what the wiki has to say, although it won't give you the full dose of slack.



Damn, my mind is drifting, forgot where I was going with this post. Oh well. I'll summarize: Occam's Razor is nice when applied to common daily chores, but it has nothing to do with religion or lack there of. In reality, we are complex people, and we savor complexity, right or wrong, for good or bad. But, when looking at your faith, try to keep this other comment in mind from "They Might Be Giants":
Dear friends, would those of you who know what this is all about please raise your hands? I think if God is dead he laughed himself to death. Because, you see, we live in Eden. Genesis has got it all wrong. We never left the Garden. Look about you. This is paradise. It's hard to find, I, I'll grant you, but it is here. Under our feet, beneath the surface, all around us is everything we want. The earth is shining under the soot. We are all fools.


So, go now, and may you start eating popcorn with a spoon.

04 August 2005

Eating Popcorn With a Spoon

Everything needs a name. "Eating Popcorn With A Spoon" seems as good a name as any. I think it's a future status quo. Seinfeld tried to popularize eating candy bars with a fork. Didn't catch on. But popcorn with a spoon, now that's something, because one can cover the popcorn with salsa or cheese. Yummy. Now, eating popcorn with your fingers, while experimenting with toppings, that just doesn't work. Sort of like confining ice cream to a cone. Just no fun. But, now, if we start eating popcorn with a spoon, well, it's a social revolution.

So many kids play with the idea of changing the world. Very few do, and most that succeed are freaks who are remembered as murderous leaders. (Insert the name of your favorite dictator or politician here, then nod in a agreement before coming up with other example to counter the claim.) So, changing the world is a big order to fill. Pay It Forward had a good idea, but so very few actually acted. However, eating popcorn with a spoon, that is something everyone can do.

I am currently engrossed in reading about religion. Islam and Christianity get the most attention, as they seem to have the primary roles in society along with their parent of Judaism and the lesser known Abrahamic religions. Funny. I don't understand why so many think their versions of theism are right. People can hate each other based on their extrapolations from some books supposedly from god, but all capable people can eat popcorn with a spoon. It won't solve the conflict, but it would be a funny thing to watch. Does anyone else think religion is funny?

I don't see much truth in the world. But one thing I hold as a truth is that if you aren't laughing at yourself, others are laughing at you. One of the only smart things I've ever said is that one should solve pretentiously serious problems by asking "How would the Three Stooges handle this?" Ronald Reagan gave us jelly beans. I offer eating popcorn with a spoon. It may not solve any problems, but it can make the world a bit more enjoyable.