pray or die

He parted a sea?
Seems like things have slowed down a bit at work since I cancelled my trip. The urgency that was driving me last week has lessened a bit, and now I’m a little more relaxed about the deadlines that are coming up. It’s also coming up on that nice time of year where I start getting itchy for a vacation. Luckily, there is already some stuff on the horizon that I’ve got to look forward to.

Since I was writing about the backyard project yesterday, I got to thinking about how we can get going again and start making some progress. I took some time to update my backyard drawings with a detailed irrigation plan. I’ve been delaying the relatively cheap task of installing sprinklers, mainly because I just hadn’t planned enough to jump in. So, with the help of some online resources, I mapped out pipe layout, sprinkler head location, spray radiuses, hydro-zones and associated flow rates and pressure requirements. It was kinda fun actually, appealing to the engineer in me I suppose. Now all that’s left is to rent the trencher and see if it can hack my rocksoil. Supplies should only run about $200 and the labor is light, so this could potentially be a one-weekend project.

Easter is this next weekend and that gets me thinking about church. We haven’t been to church with any regularity in years. Back in Florida, we went twice a week. I miss it. Without getting into my views on religion, and how they’ve changed in the past few years – suffice it to say that I do enjoy going to church. I enjoy the people at church, I enjoy the setting, I enjoy the history, and I hold the majority of values taught there to be important human qualities. My alliance with some major points of doctrine may not be where the church would ideally have them, and I have adopted a very liberal stance on a few of the absolutist-positioned items that most good Christians stand behind – but I do still have some sort of “faith.”

A few years ago I realized my view of religion was changing when I asked myself: “If someone all-knowing challenged you to put your life at stake by stating your unequivocal belief that certain biblical events happened as they are written, would you?” When it came down to it I guess I just didn’t have enough faith to risk my life on whether or not a man really did get swallowed by, and lived inside, a fish. Sure it’s a hypothetical, but it serves to show what I mean by saying my beliefs have changed. While I’m a far cry from a cynical atheist, my views on certain aspects of religion have changed. Having said that, I still miss church.

Well, I guess I did end up “getting into it” after all. Summed up, I think I’ve adopted a more common-sense approach to religion. Sorry to get all God on you guys, that kind of writing typically stays in the not-on-the-internet journal. Back to my normal hedonistic rambling in 3, 2, 1…

The lead story on CNN this morning had a sentence that I found hilarious: “U.S. Marines engaged in intense fighting in Fallujah today in an attempt to pacify the city…” Fighting to pacify? Am I the only one that finds that to be an odd concept? Kind of like a “peace-keeping missile,” I can understand the intent of the wording – but in reality it just makes you sound pretty dumb. They also had a sidebar item noting the news that Senator Kennedy is calling Iraq “Bush’s Vietnam.” While I don’t fully agree with the comparison in terms of the reason for fighting – I do see the parallel he’s trying to get it with the whole “spirit” of the situation. Without outing myself as a dove, I do wish we wouldn’t have gone to Iraq without UN blessing. WMD or not, Al Qaeda or not, I just think it wasn’t the wisest decision to go all commando and defy the UN.

Why didn’t someone tell me that yesterday’s entry was rife with spelling errors? I re-read it last night and was embarrassed at how dumb it sounded. OK, I’ve reached the “been staring at the page waiting for the next subject to pop into my head” time-limit and must therefore bid you all adieu.

Dave out.

lost in cyberspace

The original sin.
Ever since I being a teenager, I can remember being interested in religion. No one religion in particular, just religion and theology in a historical sense. I find myself fascinated with the various ways mankind dealt with the unknown throughout history. How beliefs developed, how they theological issues affected culture at the time, and just the sheer amount of beliefs and ideas that are out there. I routinely try and trace the branches in the family tree of religious and philosophical thought, going back to the “beginning” and working forward through names like Hermes, Zoroaster, Plato, etc. There are so many interesting insights that can be made into how certain lines of thinking either came to prominence or got squashed. It’s not just age-old religion and philosophy that I enjoy, I also enjoy reading up on the more modern developments. Everything from Mormonism to Scientology, and as far-reaching as modern Freemasonry and Extreme-Right Militia nuts. There are nuggets of wisdom to be found in all of them I guess, even if they are the Berenstain Bears “what not to do” kind. Example? While reading about post- and pre-Christian Gnostic thought, I found a very interesting redux of the Gnostic creed: “Gnostics do not seek salvation from sin, but instead seek to escape ignorance, believing that sin is merely a consequence of ignorance.” Sounds relatively right to me.

Thanks to the great free online encyclopedia Wikipedia for all the reference links in the above paragraph.

The creepiest thing happened the other day at work. I got a phone call from what I think was my dad’s cell phone. However, instead of my dad on the other end, it was a kind of radio-static sound, like someone switching stations. There were several voices talking over each other at first, and I couldn’t make out much. After a couple minutes the signal cleared up and I could hear a child’s voice reciting a list of dates. It sounded like a little girl, and she was just reading dates: “January 15th, January 26th, August 12th, etc.” She read dates for about 5 minutes (I copied most of them down in case it was a message about my future or something). As the call went on, it became clear that the child was talking to her mother, and I could eventually hear a woman replying. I heard some brief talk about money and insurance. Finally I decided that my dad must’ve inadvertently called me from what I figure was most likely the pharmacy. So Pop, either you’re gonna get a huge cell phone bill for accidentally calling me and not knowing it – or I got some freaky Twilight Zone call from the future, with some child letting me know important dates-to-come. Weird.

So, to kinda follow up on the whole Super Bowl thing, some news outlets are carrying a story about how TiVo says the halftime show “wardrobe malfunction” was the most replayed TV event in the company’s history. Now, call me dumb – but I didn’t know TiVo was tracking my viewing habits. I don’t remember signing any kind of agreement about that, although I’m sure it’s in some EULA somewhere that I “accepted” by getting their service. Seems strange that they can just watch and monitor what I watch and when, even to a level of detail to see what I rewind and pause the most? Big brother truly is watching. Although I try to watch as little TV as possible, I have found that TiVo has totally changed my habits. I no longer “have” to see anything, I just record it and watch it when I want. If something sounds even remotely interesting, why not record it and check it out at my leisure? I can always fast-forward through it or erase it. Plus, jumping through commercials makes the whole thing that much more rad.

Reading another of the online journals I keep up with, I found this “President Match” test. By answering the questions (it’s pretty short), you can see which candidate is most compatible with your thinking based on where they stand on the issues. When I took the test, Bush scored dead last with 55% commonality with my answers. Edwards was 100% aligned with my answers, and Kerry was 98% aligned. Kind of an interesting survey in that it really boiled down some major issued to nice, pointed questions. There was a lot of stuff on there that I really have no opinion on, like some of the Medicare and prescription drug coverage stuff, as well as things that I’m just ignorant about like NAFTA and certain aspects of foreign trade.

Looking at the questions and issues the survey covered, you can really see a dichotomy in the thinking that must be prevalent here in the US. While it’s never as simple as black or white, there are just some issues that will never be decided: abortion, capital punishment, religion, etc. They will always be fiercely opposed to each other and almost certainly never be able to find a happy medium. It seems the US is still a pretty conservative country on average, with things like a national furor over the Super Bowl halftime show showing just how not ready we are, as a country, for that type of display. Whereas in Europe, soap operas show more than that on a daily basis.

I’m not saying that all conservative viewpoints are wrong, nor am I allying myself with all liberal ideals. Hell, for the most part I don’t really care that much – but I know a nut when I see one, and I can spot a crazy idea, liberal or conservative, fairly easily. Politics aren’t really my cup of tea, but I do respect the fact that I can play a role in how things go by voting. While my prevailing attitude towards politics is one of apathy and “who cares,” I do try and keep abreast of things so I can at least know what’s going on. I guess that’s better than most of the Reality TV generation coming up now. Sorry Reality TV generationers, but it’s my duty as your senior to look down upon you as the eventual downfall of this world. Because as we all know, each generation’s junior generation is always taking this world to hell in a handbasket? it’s just your lot. Prove me wrong.

Well, I had some other stuff written which I e-mailed to myself, but it has apparently gotten lost in cyberspace. Guess I can post it tomorrow instead. Dave out.

ego death

sorry, this whole entry should be enclosed in those <begin tanget></end tanget> thangs...
OK, I’m gonna go ahead and get the crazy-talk out of the way before I move on to more regular blog ramblings. Prepare for a full-on URL linkfest, you could read for hours on the links I’m giving you here… For those who want only blog-style goings-on, fast forward a few paragraphs and read the bottom junk. Thanks.

At various times in the past 4 or 5 years, I have been intrigued by the idea of so-called “ego death.” Unlike some of the ideas that get stuck in my brain, I can actually pinpoint how my thoughts were directed to such a seemingly obscure subject:

It all started with an interest in classic alchemy. Spurred, believe it or not, by a Smashing Pumpkins album several years back. Alchemy is the process whereby early “chemists” tried to change (“transmute”) base metals into gold. I read a lot about the processes and ideas of these early chemist-cum-get-rich-quick folks, and was fascinated. Some of the theories and ideas put forth by people like Hermes and Paracelsus just sucked me in and and made me want to learn more (and vintage alchemical imagery is just engrossing to me for some reason). From there, I got interested in “spiritual alchemy,” which led to reading a bit of Jung’s thoughts on it. “Spiritual” alchemy is just the appliance of classic alchemic ideas to the spiritual: the belief that a “base” human can be transformed into a more spiritual being (gold) through a series of transmutations, or refining steps. Somewhere in there I got tangled up with the origins of religion as we know it, which led to some interesting entheobotany research. I read up on that for a while. Including one book which purports (among other things) that the manna that God’s children survived on while lost in the desert was actually psychedelic mushrooms, and that the origins of Christianity were born out of an altered-consciousness “hoax.” It’s a super interesting read, if you’re daring enough to wade through it. (Here’s the Christian refuting for equal-time’s sake.)

Anyway, the entheobotany stuff somehow morphed into an interest in all kinds of Gnostic materials. But before the Gnostic phase, I somehow came across the writings of Terrence McKenna. McKenna is a kind of modern-day Tim Leary, a “pioneer” in the use and “study” of pyschoreactive substances (LSD, mushrooms, plants, etc.). I was reading McKenna when I first heard the term “ego death” or “ego loss,” which in his case was in reference to a psychedelic experience. He himself only accomplished it through the use of psychedelic mushrooms. I don’t know if I want to go eating caps to gain a greater spiritual understanding of my place in the universe, but the ego death thing sure does sound intriguing. From a website:

“It is an ecstatic state, characterized by the loss of boundaries between the subject and the objective world, with ensuing feelings of unity with other people, nature, the entire Universe, and God.”

Sounds kinda awesome. Losing your sense of self or something. Anyway, if anyone knows of some non-drug-taking way to achieve it, let me know. And now that I’ve managed to demonstrate my insanity – I’ll change subjects.

Wanna see how I got three free months of cable and internet and a personal phone call from AT&T Broadband’s VP of customer support? If my dad taught me anything, it’s that you gotta write letters when you’re pissed. It’s an old letter, but I found it while cleaning out my “My Documents” the other day, and thought it was kinda funny.

Dave out.