Because Monsters In the Night Really Suck

“When I became convinced that the Universe is natural — that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world — not even in infinite space. I was free — free to think, to express my thoughts — free to live to my own ideal — free to live for myself and those I loved — free to use all my faculties, all my senses — free to spread imagination’s wings — free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope — free to judge and determine for myself — free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the ”inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past — free from popes and priests — free from all the ”called” and ”set apart” — free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies — free from the fear of eternal pain — free from the winged monsters of the night — free from devils, ghosts and gods.

For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought — no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings — no chains for my limbs — no lashes for my back — no fires for my flesh — no master’s frown or threat — no following another’s steps — no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.

And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain — for the freedom of labor and thought — to those who fell on the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains — to those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs — to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn — to those by fire consumed — to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.

Let us be true to ourselves — true to the facts we know, and let us, above all things, preserve the veracity of our souls. If there be gods we cannot help them, but we can assist our fellow-men. We cannot love the inconceivable, but we can love wife and child and friend.

We can be as honest as we are ignorant. If we are, when asked what is beyond the horizon of the known, we must say that we do not know. We can tell the truth, and we can enjoy the blessed freedom that the brave have won. We can destroy the monsters of superstition, the hissing snakes of ignorance and fear. We can drive from our minds the frightful things that tear and wound with beak and fang. We can civilize our fellow-men.

We can fill our lives with generous deeds, with loving words, with art and song, and all the ecstasies of love. We can flood our years with sunshine — with the divine climate of kindness, and we can drain to the last drop the golden cup of joy.”

Robert G. Ingersoll, 1896

This wonderful passage was borrowed from The Agnostic’s Wife, who borrowed it from her husband. 😉  This probably sums up the reason for my lack of belief better than any words I could ever muster. 

I was the kid in church (Church of Christ, fyi) who realized pretty early on the information just didn’t jibe with what I knew (even at a relatively young age) to be logic.  Let alone what I consider to be the profound nature of existence and humanity.  It just didn’t make sense, and I recall feeling isolated and strange.  Why doesn’t everyone else see this is pretty silly? Am I the only one who thinks this is nonsense?

I realized pretty quickly it was just a bunch of fables and parables to teach people how to live, mixed in with a lot of stuff to keep people oppressed. 

1 TIMOTHY 2:11-12
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”

I mean, really??  Women were not allowed to speak in our church.  Incidentally, my use of the term “our church” is about as loose as a city cop’s ticket-writing hand on a holiday weekend.  It was the church we attended, pretty much on Sunday mornings only (and not even every week) for a handful of years.  I stopped going not far into my teens. 

Now, that’s not to say I didn’t struggle with feeling “wrong” and “sinful” about my dissident thoughts (or just, you know, life in general) – religion is a hell of a torture device, no pun intended. 

Anyway, that was just one red flag about organized religion.  At my mom’s funeral, one of her closest cousins (also a woman) wanted to get up and say a few words about what my mother meant to her.  While they were polite (in the typical Anglo-Protestant fashion of gentle condemnation), the preacher and church officials were quite uneasy at this suggestion.  The indignation! 

You’d have thought Beelzebub was about to rise screaming through the church floor the instant cousin Barbara opened her mouth at the podium.  And that she did.  Get up and speak, I mean.  I applauded her bold move, for bucking convention and telling the church of EFF off in a subtle way.  Sorry, Preach, nothing trumps a grieving family member’s intent to say a final farewell to a beloved relative.  My grandmother offered an apology to the preacher after the service, which I admired her for (for keeping the peace) whilst simultaneously rolling my eyes (and seething with anger).  That really was the final nail in the coffin for organized relgion to me. 

While I respect everyone’s right to hold belief in some sort of religous context – and understand the inclination, mind you – I see religion as a whole as something of a poison, that oppresses people in the name of eternal liberation, and man’s struggle to make sense of the inconceivable.

This is why I am not a militant non-believer, and why I (if I’m pressed to do so) would call myself an Agnostic-Atheist.  In short, I don’t believe in the existence of a Supreme Being (certainly not the type force-fed us by the world’s major religions), I have no first-hand proof either way – and neither do you.  That said, I believe in the “divine” nature, if you will, of the natural universe and it’s many wonders.  I believe in the shared spiritual connection between humans.  I believe in the mystery that is ‘love.’  I believe in compassion, understanding, the seemingly supernatural, transformative power of art, music, and knowledge. 

I believe there may well be something beyond the veil – indeed, I hope after I expire here, my next journey will be a wonderous cosmic voyage beyond anything my human brain could conceptualize! – but there’s simply no way I could know that.  All I can do is try to live a principled, compassionate, thoughtful life with some meaning that adds to the greater value of my species.  Beyond that, everything else is but grasping for light in a dark world.

I Hate Feeling Powerless

I have no idea where to begin tonight’s blog.  My next ’30 Days’ topic isn’t one I want to tackle right now – not hiding from it, just one of those I don’t know how to write about and would rather skip (but I won’t).

This morning was weird.  My other half has been hormonal lately.  And no, I’m not being chauvinist – there’s WAY more to that story, I assure you.  We’ll get to all that another time – over tea or something.  Anyway, she even cried a little as I held her in bed.  She’s in a complicated place at the moment.  And I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it.  And I guess that has to be okay.  One thing I’ve been trying to work on within myself is realizing that when someone around me has a problem or brings a problem to me, I don’t have to take it on and immediately try to help solve it.  Sometimes the best (and/or only) thing to do is simply listen and be there for moral support.  I don’t even have to proactively offer advice, only if asked.  Most people who are just being dramatic bring you problems because they’re hoping you’ll give them advice on how to fix it.  People who are legitimately hurting from something may not even want advice – even if they feel like they do – but rather, may just want someone to vent to, or someone to give two shits for a moment.

So far I suppose it’s working, because I am catching myself thinking about offering a solution, then realizing that I don’t have to and taking another tactic.

But, all in all she’s fine now.  She had a good rest all day (she’s a night owl) and is currently listening to Arabic music and doing a little living room dancing.  This is part of why I love her.

We had a little talk about a big topic we’d been entertaining last fall.  It came up this morning, after I was supremely inspired by a friend’s post on Facebook about an adventure.  I won’t go into any more detail just yet, as I don’t know where (if anywhere) this is going yet.  Anyway, the talk about reassessing that situation turned into not talking about it right now because we don’t want to just “talk about talking about it.”  If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.  More to come, in some fashion I’m sure.

That turned my mood right around this morning though, after getting that dose of inspiration from my friend’s words.  I sent wifey a text, and a suggestion to discuss this evening.  I went from my solemn, blue mood to a much happier place.

In other news, the weekend’s almost upon us.  I need to get BUSY with some creative projects on my plate – I’ve been asked by a friend to do a commissioned piece (paintings), another friend to work on an image for an outdoor sign for his restaurant, and I have a poetry/art book project I’m in the middle of, as well as editing photos for a photography book.  Ugh!  I wish I could devote my full-time attention to these matters – but then, I’m sure most artists do.  But, alas, I must keep a day job.  Luckily it’s one I do well and like, so I ain’t complainin’ too much.

30 Days – Day 11 – Something People Compliment Me On

If you’re following this blog, you know I’m participating in the ‘30 Days of Truth‘ project I’ve seen on other blogs.  It’s helping me commit to posting every single day, since I’m also taking part in The Daily Post project.

Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on

People have often complimented me on my humor and/or wit.  I guess I am pretty quick with a snappy quip.  Is that a talent?  Perhaps it is; although I’m not sure I’ve put it to the best use over the years.  Like many things, I can’t force it – guess that’s why I probably wouldn’t want to be a comedy writer or comedian (the pressure). 

I’ve also gotten compliments on my art and photography (fyi, I did not take the photo above – click on it to see more tilt shift images).  I have had no formal art or photography training.  I’ve drawn since I was about 2 years old, and I guess I had a natural affinity for photography from a fairly young age.  I used to carry those Fun Saver cameras with me everywhere.

I actually would like to take a digital photography class – something non-credit where I could learn tips & tricks to better my craft.  But I’ve been told I have a good eye for things.  That makes me feel pretty good.  🙂  And I’ve learned some interesting digital processing techniques through friends and just messing around with various programs and websites such as Photoshop, GIMP, Pixlr, etc.  I’ve also learned some cool tricks from the wife.  She took digital photography and editing classes in college. 

I got into painting last year.  I really took to it after my first piece.  I decided I’d like to try something on canvas.  For many years, though I was pretty adept at drawing, painting intimidated me.  I was afraid to try it.  Mind you, I am no Picaso, but I think I have been able to successfully translate my inspiration and vision onto the canvas.  My work leans toward pop art, with major inspriations/themes running the gambit from Mexican cultural and/or religious iconography, fantasy art, rockabilly, vintage, retro, and so forth.  Although I’m atheist, I must confess I have a sweet spot for Mexican Catholic iconography – the Virgin of Guadalupe is a personal favorite. 

I’ve been photographing a lot outdoors lately.  I moved to a loft in South Dallas the weekend of Halloween, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously somewhere.  I love my neighborhood.  I feel very at home, and I’m discovering more about this part of the city every day.  I’d never ventured down here much at all – it was verboten, as it’s “that part of town” that nobody from the North Side ever goes to.  I’m glad they don’t – that saves it as the treasure it is.  Although some development and services on the whole are badly needed for the residents of South Dallas, many of whom are among the poorest in the entire city.  Anyway, I’m working on a photography book about my neighborhood.  I’ve gotten what I think are some pretty great shots, and while there’s a lot of information online and in books about South Dallas as a whole, including Oak Cliff, I am fairly certain there’s yet to be a book (and certainly a photography book) about The Cedars (my neighborhood). 

Here’s a shot I thought I’d share:

30 Days – Day 10 – Someone I Need to Let Go

If you’re following this blog, you know I’m participating in the ‘30 Days of Truth‘ project I’ve seen on other blogs.  It’s helping me commit to posting every single day, since I’m also taking part in The Daily Post project.

Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.

Luckily, I’m at a place in my life currently where I don’t have any dead weight in the friendship category.  I have a smaller circle of intimates here in my early 30s than I did around 18 or 21, etc.  And that suits me just fine.  I have also cut out unnecessary drama, as many my age have.  So I don’t have anyone making me miserable.

That said, there is always room to grow; to move forward.  Living in the past is a waste of time.  We would all do well to keep the past fresh in memory, and learn from the mistakes contained therein.  However, if we are spinning our wheels in yesterday, we cannot see today or hope to see tomorrow.

I must continue to excise negativity from my view, and my life.  This could include acquaintances, social networking “friends,” and so forth.  I can be negative with the best of them.  However, it’s usually bitching about something in my life I’m unsettled with, as opposed to one of my biggest pet peeves: people who constantly bemoan their lot in life, but refuse to actively do anything to change it.  Those who fall into this category will not find any sympathy from me.

“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”  – Franklin D. Roosevelt

South Dallas Story – Pt. 2

Pretty good Saturday, I’d say.  So far anyway.  It was 73 degrees and sunny in Dallas, but unfortunately I didn’t get out to enjoy it as much as I’d have liked.  I was going to set off on foot around the neighborhood to get some shots for a photography book I’m working on, but decided the light was too direct at 2:00pm.  I settled on 4:30-ish.  As I went out, though, I caught my photographer neighbor (see a prior post), and we got to talking, as we’re prone to do.  Interesting dude.  We ended up talking for like an hour, until we were interrupted by the wifey peeking out of the blinds (she’d just gotten up from a day of slumber, and we were standing in front of our door) and a woman from our building’s property management company.

But, I did manage to work on some new paintings (almost done), and edit some of the shots I got last weekend.  What the hell – I’ll share one of them below.

I’m really excited about this project.  It’s a coffee table style photography book about Cedars (aka The Cedars), my neighborhood in South Dallas.  I have no ETA on it at all, but hopefully sometime sooner than later.  This year for sure.  Of course, this is in addition to two poetry book projects currently underway.  Ugh, I really need to stop procrastinating on those and get with it.

In total contrast to today’s weather, here’s a time-lapse video of snow (a relative rarity in the Sun Belt-Buckle that is DFW) falling on Cedars Station, our local DART train station.

I do want to get in some rainy shots, maybe some snowy/icy shots if we get anything good this winter, and some sunny shots.  Watch this blog for more as the project moves forward.

My neighbor is a world-class photographer, and does it for a living, so I must admit it’s sort of intimidating.  He’s also in his early 20s (8 years younger than me) so that makes it somewhat even more intimidating.  It’s also inspiring though.  I’ve never claimed to be the best artist, writer, or photographer, but I’m just doing what I love.  I don’t have all the training and latest tips, but I do have the passion, and I think I do a pretty good job.

Okay,  enough blogging (for now) – time to work on more art, and then watch ‘True Grit’ with the wifey.

Piece For Wind I

(inspired by my current read, ‘Grapefruit‘ by Yoko Ono)

Take a bag of woven cloth, or plastic
Whisper your secrets into the bag
Go outside, wherever there is wind
Open the bag and let the secrets fly to the wind
Forget them all

2011 winter