Some stupid religious pseudo-philosophy I read today

While cataloging a cart of religious fiction:

If you use an axe with a dull edge, the energy you expend and the power you apply will be spread out and dissipated over a dull edge. The axe becomes ineffecient and ineffective. You need to put in more time, energy, or force to accomplish the same amount of work . . .
“I’ll remember that,” I said, “when I cut down my next tree.”
“You won’t cut down trees,” he said. “But you’ll still need to remember it.”
“Why?”
“Because it can change the way you live.”
“How?”
“Replace the word “axe” with the words “your life.” If your life is dull, and you don’t sharpen its edge, then more strength must be exerted. A dull edge is one that is less focused. It doesn’t converge to a single point. The same with your life. If your life isn’t focused, if your life doesn’t have a single focus, if it’s spread out in many directions or with unclear purpose, then it will have a dull edge.

What an absurd assumption, that a person’s life should be as single-purpose as a tool for chopping wood.

This is what’s so ridiculous about believing that someone else is in charge. I would much rather have experiences just to have them, learn things just to learn them, go into the world asking every question I can think of instead of believing I already know the answers. That is one of the many things I hate about religion, the way it makes people fit their lives into a template.

A dose of dope and a great big bill

I’m having such a hard time concentrating at work right now. Could be part of an upcoming migraine (hopefully not) but I don’t know how to fix it.

Maybe it’s because I have so many aborted thoughts lately—comments I start to make on Facebook, or elsewhere, then delete without posting because it seems pointless to say the words. It was happening already before The Walking Disaster, but it’s so much worse now. Like every time I see a news story, and there isn’t even the need for an actual thoughtful response anymore because there’s nothing to dissect, no questions raised—just another occasion of garbage human beings being garbage and hurting everyone they can. I should just have a stock post prepared, the same words to be shared with each new example—something like, “You are all awful, shit people and what you’re doing is absolutely unacceptable. I genuinely wish I believed in hell so you could rot there.”

The United States political system has been officially taken over by the cruelest, stupidest, most self-serving elements of humanity. I think it must only be a matter of time before violence comes along behind, open rather than camouflaged the way it is now, government-inflicted rather than just government-enabled. Calling people Nazis doesn’t even mean anything anymore, because they are (a) too stupid to see that’s what they are and (b) too callous to care even if they did. So there’s no reason to think we won’t continue heading down that path. Who would have believed we learned nothing from the Third Reich?

You have to be a real moron to think we can cut $9 billion from our already subpar education system and still beat your chest about this being “the greatest country in the world.” You have to be kind of a moron to think that anyway, or to care about such a designation, but cutting education? This isn’t rocket science.

Which is good, because pretty soon there won’t be any Americans who can understand rocket science.

Supplication to the Gods of Television

A show where people watch The Joy of Painting and try to do what Bob Ross does. They should probably be drinking; in fact, the source material lends itself perfectly to a drinking game. Take a drink anytime he paints the indication of something, creates the illusion of something, or tells the audience they get to choose what lives in their world. Take a shot when he beats the devil out of his brush, or adds a giant tree in the forefront of what you thought was a finished painting. If he shows a baby animal in the studio, chug. Everyone is sincere in this game, because Bob Ross is objectively the best human being ever to live.

I think it’s clear this show needs to exist. Please someone make it happen.

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Supernova

I feel like I’m imploding in slow motion. Like for the first 25 years of my life, I had this exoskeleton, a shell that forced me into an unnatural shape but was somehow propping me up as well. And then I blew it up, and the explosion gave me momentum for a few years, but now I’m collapsing in on myself. I have no church inventing structure for my life, no social structures steering me toward certain paths, no safety net of family and friends to give me the Heimlich when I’m choking. I can’t even blog about it properly, because I’m almost physically incapable of opening up, my brain will not allow me to put it all in words. The inside of my head looks like a swirly, slow-moving galactic whirlpool, and the funnel that turns it into language is pinched shut so only the tiniest, most suffocated trickle can get through. There is just

 

 

 

 

 

 

too

 

 

 

 

 

 

much

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

too much to articulate,

too much to process,

too much to handle,

too

fucking

much.

It feels like everything in the world is just wrong, like there are so many things wrong that I could never get to them all, a hundred thousand new leaks for every one we plug. I feel like my life has gone off script from the very beginning, like none of it was supposed to happen this way, I shouldn’t even have been born here, I shouldn’t have the family I have, shouldn’t have taken any of the paths I took. But you can’t go backward, obviously, and with every year the paths ahead dwindle, fading, overgrown by impenetrable forest so I know that even though other lives are only a few feet from me, I could never get through all the thorns. And now I’m Alice in Wonderland, looking down at that fucking dog erasing the path out from under her feet.

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I just need so . . . so much. Desperation is the theme of my adult life. I’m an empath, I feel EVERYTHING, and I can’t get it out of me. I have permanent writer’s blockmy entire life I’ve felt myself to be a writer, tried to write but just . . . nothing . . . comes . . . out. I’m actually an excellent writer when I have a prompt, and I have so many feelings and thoughts, all I ever fucking DO is think, but I can’t get out of my head, can’t do anything with it. I have so many thoughts, and so many needs, and one of the things I need is someone to reflect me back to myself so I can see who I am. I’m just realizing that this is why I feel so unfulfilled in my friendships, why I need so hard to find a friend who is exactly like me. It’s because . . . I have no fucking idea who I am. How much of me is the anxiety? How much of me is all the garbage bullshit I was taught growing up? Therapy, and probably medication, would help answer this question. I’m hoping to be able to do that someday soon. But in the meantime, fuck, I just don’t know what to do.

My family is finally taking that trip to Israel we’ve spent literally our entire lives talking about. I don’t even want to go anymorethe shine came off the rose of Israel when I grew up and realized my family were Zionistsbut on the other hand, the shine has not come off my need to take my first trip outside the godsdamnedfucking United States. And on top of that. We might go to London, too.

If there is a place in the entire world that I feel most perfectly represents all the everything about my life that is so completely wrong I can’t put it into words, it is the United Kingdom.

To me, the UK is all the things my life should have been. I used to fantasize about traveling constantly; I have so many notebooks full of plans and research, and not one of those trips has ever come into existence. I stopped doing it several years ago because god, I just couldn’t bear the intensity of that longing with no possibility anywhere in the remotely near future. But since there’s an actual real plan to go later this year, I thought it would be safe to start researching again. I spent a couple hours today online, looking up all the places I want to go.

It wasn’t safe. It broke the fucking dam, and now I am desperate again. I don’t know how to stand not being in London right. now. I don’t want to go there for five days and then leave. I want to be there, permanently, immediately. That might not be the place I want to stay for the rest of my life; I desperately want to see so many other places in the world, too, and maybe (though it sounds like idiocy to say it) I won’t end up fitting in the UK. But I need to have the chance.

I was desperate already, and I’m not handling this new wave well. For the past seven months I’ve been counting down the seconds until I find out whether or not I’ll get the job I’m hoping to getthe one job that is a small, small possibility of improvement in our current situation, the job that will maybe give us the stability we need to get out of the tractor beam that has been our suffocating life for the past ten years. My anxiety is constant and nearly overwhelming. I’ve never been suicidal and I don’t think I ever will be, but I can feel myself getting closer; like not sharing someone’s views, but being able to see their point. Before the past year or so, deep down, I always had a sort of naive Pollyanna optimism about my future. Now I realize how little reason I have to hope.

I’m turning 32 in a couple months. My twenties were already a waste, and really, so was everything before that. I’m not having children, so at least I don’t have a deadline on living life. But if my thirties are another eight years of this . . . I don’t think I’ll make it. I’ll collapse in on myself before then. The implosion is already happening.

It bothers me to hear the word “survivor” used as a compliment. I don’t understand why we talk about strength so much, in different variations. If you’re “a survivor,” it means things are trying to hurt you, but you’re able to withstand them. That is excellent, for obvious reasons. But if we’re praising strength, it means we’re disappointed by weakness. And I don’t understand why we can’t admire weakness, too. Why are we so in awe of the ability to not let things affect you? Why don’t we admire a person who experiences something hurtful and is hurt by it? This preference is so deeply ingrained that I can’t get to the bottom of it; I can see from my own instinctive response that I’m too much in it, can’t tell what the shape of it is. But in my head, with my words, I think there are many contexts in which strength is not objectively better than weakness. Somehow and for some reason we have decided that it’s better. But I think this is a social construct

Actually

Wait.

No, I’m wrong. It’s the other way around.

Because as far as evolution is concerned, survival is the ultimate objective good.

And that’s what the problem is. How funny that I didn’t see it immediately! The problem is that we are humans: we are mammals.

We like to think about how different we are from other animals, but we’re congratulating ourselves preemptively; we have many more centuries to go before we evolve into anything really different. Most of our problems arise from the animalness that is inherent in our nature. Territorialismfear that other animals will invade our homes. Shunning members of the group that won’t conform. Glorifying strength and violence. Shaming or exploiting vulnerability. Fighting for dominance over competitors. We attempt to distinguish ourselves from animals with almost entirely superficial flourishes: smoothing and painting and decorating our bodies, collecting objects to surround ourselves with, creating industries to facilitate our decorating and collecting. And we focus so hard on those surface behaviors, we don’t notice the instinctiveness of it all, the way we operate on auto-pilot. Until we start questioning our behaviors, questioning our motivations and all the social structures we’ve built up arbitrarily, we’ll still just be another kind of animal.

The conservative viewpoint is that of an abuser. 

People who oppose government regulation know that without it, the powerful will abuse everyone they can. It’s not that they’re naive about people’s cruelty; it’s that they’re also the kind of people who will abuse anyone they can, and they think that’s how the world should be. We’ve allowed abusers to co-opt the concept of freedom, to make it mean their freedom to abuse us. They talk about freedom from government regulation because they are the thing we need government regulation to protect us from.

Who Would We Complain To, Anyway?

“I gazed at Kobe harbour, sparkling leadenly far below, and listened carefully, hoping to pick up some echoes from the past, but nothing came to me. Just the sounds of silence. That’s all. But what are you going to do? We’re talking about things that happened over thirty years ago.

“Over thirty years ago. There is one thing I can say for certain: the older a person gets, the lonelier he becomes. It’s true for everyone. But maybe that isn’t wrong. What I mean is, in a sense our lives are nothing more than a series of stages to help us get used to loneliness. That being the case, there’s no reason to complain. And besides, who would we complain to, anyway?

“. . . I was the only customer who was by himself. Maybe it was just my imagination, but everyone else there seemed really happy. The couples looked contented, and a group of men and women were laughing uproariously. Some days are just like that.”

Haruki Murakami

A Walk to Kobe

How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live

The world is such an upsetting place.

I’ve been reading a book about the billionaires who control American politics, and I just read about the case in 1996 when a Koch Industries pipeline exploded and burned two teenagers to death. I was thinking about the parents, and the unbelievable amount that was awarded to them$296 million, almost three times the $100 million the family had sued for—and I thought about what I would do if I were in their place.

They hadn’t done it for the money, of course; the Koch assholes had offered them money to settle, as Koch always does, because it was cheaper to just pay off lawsuits than it was to follow the environmental regulations they flat-out ignored. But the family wasn’t in it for the money—they were in it because it is wrong for a company to blow up teenagers, and the company had known what it was doing and just didn’t fucking care how it would hurt others, and the family wanted the company to be punished for murdering their daughter. That’s how I would feel, too. And because $296 million is such a mind-blowingly absurd amount of money, I couldn’t resist thinking about what I would do with it.

Because the thing is, I can’t imagine what you would even do with more than one million. If I had that amount of money, I would give $295 million to the best charities I could think of, and keep one for myself. And that would be more than I’d ever need.

With $50,000 I would pay off the rest of my student loan debt, the albatross around my neck that has completely ruined my 20s and kept my husband and me trapped and barely surviving for the ten years since we got married ($50,000 is what’s left after ten years of paying it down).

With $20,000 I would buy a car for myself, probably a Camry.

With $30,000 I would buy Mike the huge-ass truck he dreams about, even though a little part of me would die every time he drove it.

With $400,000 I would buy a house somewhere on the west coast.

With $30,000 I would finish my fucking bachelor’s degree and get my Masters in Library Science.

I would give $100,000 to his and my familyabout $10,000 each.

I would put $100,000 into a travel fund, so that I never again have to worry that I won’t be able to afford seeing any of the world besides the middle United States.

I would put $200,000 into a savings account, and the last $80,000 would just be for spendingbuying new wardrobes that actually fit us, getting new laptops that actually work, furnishing the house with bath mats and a bed frame and all the things we haven’t been able to afford in our one-bedroom apartment.

And that would be it.

I would finally have my degree, so I’d be able to get a job with health insurance and a livable wage.

We would have two cars, so Mike would be free to get a job wherever he can find one instead of having to stay with one he hates that lets him drive a work truck.

We would own a house, so we wouldn’t have to spend a third of our income renting a tiny box to live in.

And we would have health insurance, so I could finally see a neurologist about my headaches, and we could both get the therapy and probable medication that will make our lives more than just bearable.

What else could a person possibly need? What could you do with any more than that?

And yet: We live in a world where people have not just one million, not just two or three, but thousands of millions of dollars. And they are never satisfied, and they think it is their right to have so much, though there are countless others on the planet who don’t have enough to survive.

And because they have so much, they can pay to have governments skew the laws in their favor, as though they didn’t have enough of an advantage already. Because they have so much, they can afford propagandathey can spend decades and millions of dollars indoctrinating everyone’s libertarian uncles, teaching them that as white men such wealth is their birthright, too, that it is virtuous to protect it; and that if they have not yet personally received their birthright it’s only because of the evil liberal government that literally steals money from the pockets of wholesome, honest, hard-working, freedom-defending, totally self-made billionaires to let the lazy, entitled poor people spend their food stamps on iPhones and manicures.

Of course, these billionaires could buy thousands of iPhones and manicures with just the taxes they don’t pay. But that is not the point. The pointthe only one that matters in the United Statesis that it is immoral to stand in the way of a person making money (especially if that person is already rich). This is literally something they believe.

The more I see, the more I hate this fucking country. I probably hate most of the world, really, and just haven’t had the chance to develop it, not having lived there. But the worst part is that I actually love it so much, and that’s why I hate it (the world, not the U.S.—that I really do hate). It seems so clear to me, so incredibly simple, how everything should be. Do what makes you happy; don’t hurt anyone else on purpose; do what you can to fix it if you hurt someone accidentally. Don’t let anyone else decide things for you; most of all, keep your own damn mouth shut and don’t try to decide things for others. Know that you are neither any more nor any less important than anyone else. Care.

Why is that so hard?

Dangerous Weapons

Did you know that the state of Texas has absolutely no laws restricting the open carry of a shotgun or rifle? There are laws for handguns, which is to say, it’s legal if you have a permit, and unless you make explicitly threatening remarks or unholster it—placing your hand on the weapon in its holster is not considered threatening. (I guess Texas lawmakers haven’t seen as many movies as I have.)

I work for a smallish city government in North Texas, and we received an email today with a reminder about the policies for weapons on city property. Here’s my favorite part: items categorized as “dangerous weapons” are not allowed at all, including stun guns and knives with a blade longer than 5.5 inches. So. Rifles and shotguns, fine. Handguns, fine as long as you have a permit. But if the blade on your life is too long, that’s when the state of Texas considers you dangerous.

Nope. Gun culture in the U.S. isn’t fucked up at all.

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Chin Up, Claws Out

I went to the Women’s March in Austin, and it was the most okay I have felt since November. It was an amazing day, and I drained my phone’s entire battery in a few hours because I couldn’t stop taking pictures. The diversity, the signs, the almost 50,000 people. Seeing my sweet nieces holding up their own signs. It was worth the 8+ hours in a car.

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