Can you think of anything stupider to fight about?

Cross-posted from LiveJournal

Arguing about the nature of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. If you’ve been touched by his noodly appendage, this is not supposed to happen.

An experience interacting with a rather un-Christian biblical apologist some time ago left me somewhat unsettled, and I wasn’t able to think about much else for a couple of days. The thing that unsettled me the most was that despite my best intentions, I felt myself being dragged into the fray.

Additional research on the internet has led me to a plethora of websites of every possible permutation.

  • Atheists vs. Apologists
  • Evangelicals vs. non-orthodox Christians
  • Muslims vs. Jews
  • Muslims vs. Christians
  • Jews vs. Gentiles
  • Secular humanists vs. Believers
  • Mormons vs. Atheists
  • Evangelicals vs. Mormons
  • Bible-believing Christians vs. Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Scientologists vs. Everybody
  • 7th-Day-Adventists vs. …

You get the picture. Choose one from column A, and one from Column B, and you’ll be able to find it out there.

Incredible amounts of time, effort, indignation, anger and outright hatred are being spent in attempts to prove, by logic, or reason, or scripture, or exegesis, or tradition, that which is virtually unprovable – hence the cartoon above, which I created more for my own benefit than anyone else’s. And it all comes down to the most basic of human addictions, the addiction to being right.

Of course, none of this is new. It’s only that the internet era gives us fingertip access to the full spectrum of human maladjustment and brings it into clearer focus. People have been killing each other for their differences, religious and otherwise, since the dawn of time [be careful, that link is a bit grim]- and since the same epoch, there have been those who have risen up against the madness.

I remember back in the late 60’s and early 70’s when Vietnam was in full swing, a popular bumper sticker read, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”, and that led me to an odd thought. My own faith holds out that before Christ comes again, the earth has to be made ready for his coming. Part of this involves preaching the Gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people, which is why almost everywhere you go, you see our young missionaries out spreading the word.

That’s well and good, but what’s the ultimate point of that Gospel? Imagine with me for a moment that the earth was divided into only two nations, Exegetia and Harmonia.

The Republic of Exegetia consisted of three billion people. 99% of those belonged to a single faith – the “correct” one, whatever that happened to look like. Other than that, things were pretty much the same way they are now.

In Harmonia, there were also three billion people, of all different persuasions, religious and secular – and it was not uncommon to find a mosque and a synagogue built next to each other, right across the street from a Hindu temple, an Anglican chapel, and a chapter of the Harmonian Humanist Society.
While not everyone was rich, there were no poor, because everyone believed in a society where everyone wins.
People didn’t covet one another’s goods.
People didn’t lie, or steal, or rob, or murder, or slander or persecute one another.
People lived simply, so that everyone could simply live.
People respected their environment, and did all they could to be good stewards of the only planet they had to live on.
People were kind, and loving, and charitable.
Lawyers and judges were out of work, because nobody wanted to sue anyone else.

If you were God, which nation would you want to walk with? “Wait, wait, God loves everyone, he’s not a respecter of persons!” Well, you’re right but you get my point, which is:

“In the end analysis, God cares less about which Church you belong to, or don’t, than how you’re treating your fellow man.”

This, then, is the Ecumenism that I support. It has nothing to do with the various faiths trying to become like one another. It has nothing to do with everyone joining the “First Church of Blah Unsalted Farina”. It has to do with each one of us, regardless of our walk in life, reaching out to every member of humanity and doing our best to create an entire planet where everyone wins, and helping every other member of our species to make it across the finish line.

Utopia won’t come cheap. Given human nature, there will always be poor folk, there will always be those who don’t obey the rules, there will always be illness, natural disasters and everything else that makes our world a challenge to live in. But what if we were to make it even halfway to that glorious goal? Wouldn’t that be better than maintaining the status quo?

The more time goes on, the more I become committed to bringing people to Christ (which is my particular walk) by raising the human condition, rather than worrying about what they wear, which scriptures they read or which direction they face to pray – or if they even pray at all. I may be the only book of scripture that some people ever read.

Just saying that could get me heaved out of my own faith by certain people.

I’ll take my chances.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The face of depression

This is what depression can look like.

ye069jkmobt11

  1. Kurt Cobain
  2. Chester Bennington
  3. Whitney Houston
  4. Mac Miller
  5. Robin Williams
  6. Phillip Seymour Hoffman
  7. Chris Farley
  8. Marilyn Monroe
  9. Amy Winehouse
  10. Chris Cornell
  11. Ernest Hemingway
  12. Lucy Gordon
  13. Simone Battle
  14. Layne Staley
  15. Gia Allemand
  16. Anthony Bourdain

Some of these people ended their lives deliberately, others by drug overdose that may or may not have been intentional. But their pictures belie what was going on inside – they were hurting.

While many of the comments in the reddit thread where I found this were insensitive and cruel, a few were on point:

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.”
-Robin Williams

“I wanted to write down exactly what I felt but somehow the paper stayed empty and I could not have described it any better.”
-Unknown

And an essay on depression that spoke more eloquently to me than much else on the subject (slightly bowdlerized):

Depression
Author Unknown

“When you have depression it’s like it snows every day.

Some days it’s only a couple of inches. It’s a pain in the ass, but you still make it to work, the grocery store. Sure, maybe you skip the gym or your friend’s birthday party, but it IS still snowing and who knows how bad it might get tonight. Probably better to just head home. Your friend notices, but probably just thinks you are flaky now, or kind of an asshole.

Some days it snows a foot. You spend an hour shoveling out your driveway and are late to work. Your back and hands hurt from shoveling. You leave early because it’s really coming down out there. Your boss notices.

Some days it snows four feet. You shovel all morning but your street never gets plowed. You are not making it to work, or anywhere else for that matter. You are so sore and tired you just get back in the bed. By the time you wake up, all your shoveling has filled back in with snow. Looks like your phone rang; people are wondering where you are. You don’t feel like calling them back, too tired from all the shoveling. Plus they don’t get this much snow at their house so they don’t understand why you’re still stuck at home. They just think you’re lazy or weak, although they rarely come out and say it.

Some weeks it’s a full-blown blizzard. When you open your door, it’s to a wall of snow. The power flickers, then goes out. It’s too cold to sit in the living room anymore, so you get back into bed with all your clothes on. The stove and microwave won’t work so you eat a cold Pop Tart and call that dinner. You haven’t taken a shower in three days, but how could you at this point? You’re too cold to do anything except sleep.

Sometimes people get snowed in for the winter. The cold seeps in. No communication in or out. The food runs out. What can you even do, tunnel out of a forty foot snow bank with your hands? How far away is help? Can you even get there in a blizzard? If you do, can they even help you at this point? Maybe it’s death to stay here, but it’s death to go out there too.

The thing is, when it snows all the time, you get worn all the way down. You get tired of being cold. You get tired of hurting all the time from shoveling, but if you don’t shovel on the light days, it builds up to something unmanageable on the heavy days. You resent the hell out of the snow, but it doesn’t care, it’s just a blind chemistry, an act of nature. It carries on regardless, unconcerned and unaware if it buries you or the whole world.

Also, the snow builds up in other areas, places you can’t shovel, sometimes places you can’t even see. Maybe it’s on the roof. Maybe it’s on the mountain behind the house. Sometimes, there’s an avalanche that blows the house right off its foundation and takes you with it. A veritable Act of God, nothing can be done. The neighbors say it’s a shame and they can’t understand it; he was doing so well with his shoveling.

I don’t know how it went down for Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade. It seems like they got hit by the avalanche, but it could’ve been the long, slow winter. Maybe they were keeping up with their shoveling. Maybe they weren’t. Sometimes, shoveling isn’t enough anyway. It’s hard to tell from the outside, but it’s important to understand what it’s like from the inside.

I firmly believe that understanding and compassion have to be the base of effective action. It’s important to understand what depression is, how it feels, what it’s like to live with it, so you can help people both on an individual basis and a policy basis. I’m not putting heavy [stuff] out here to make your Friday morning suck. I know it feels gross to read it, and realistically it can be unpleasant to be around it, that’s why people pull away.

I don’t have a message for people with depression like “keep shoveling”. It’s asinine. Of course you’re going to keep shoveling the best you can, until you physically can’t, because who wants to freeze to death inside their own house? We know what the stakes are. My message is to everyone else. Grab a [] shovel and help your neighbor. Slap a mini snow plow on the front of your truck and plow your neighborhood. Petition the city council to buy more salt trucks, so to speak.

Depression is blind chemistry and physics, like snow. And like the weather, it is a mindless process, powerful and unpredictable with great potential for harm. But like climate change, that doesn’t mean we are helpless. If we want to stop losing so many people to this disease, it will require action at every level.”

There is no one description of depression. There is no packaged solution for depression. While I’ve never dealt with clinical depression personally, I’ve lived with people who do, and my takeaways are fairly basic:

  1. Depression is real.
  2. Platitudes don’t help anything, and usually make things worse: “Snap out of it!” “What’s your problem?” “You need a boy/girlfriend.” A list of 100 things not to say.
  3. The best thing you can say is something like “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you”… and then do it.

battle

Kindness is never wasted, never amiss, never the wrong thing. A kind word or a smile to a stranger might just save a life that day.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Why *do* we need another Cinderella?

I mean, there are so many. The Disney animated version, “The Slipper and the Rose,” “Ever After”, “Ella Enchanted”, at last count eight other movies just called “Cinderella,” and a host of others.

Disney-Princess-Wallpapers-Princess-Cinderella-disney-princess-32235585-5000-2813

richard-chamberlain-and-gemma-craven-in-the-slipper-and-the-rose

aLySEmo1JwnByQNZ7AiLsnoILJO

ever-after-original

Each one of those that I mention had its strong points and approached the story from a different angle. I was particularly fond of “Ever After” for a number of reasons, not the least of which was watching the evil stepmother get what was truly coming to her. Not that I’m really into Schadenfreude, but in this life there are and must necessarily be consequences of action – it was satisfying to see a bit of karma at work there.

So why did Disney bother to do another one?

disney_cinderella_2015-wide

Because it was absolutely magical, that’s why – and in the end analysis, despite the fact that I suspect Walt would not approve of many of the things his beloved company has done over the years, nobody does magic better than Disney.

The performances carried the movie along with nothing to detract from the miracle. Some of the characters were weaker than others, but Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett, and Lily James were brilliant. Wonderfully brilliant. We’re now technologically to the point that the effects were seamless and delightful.

And lastly, the message of the film is one that the world desperately needs.

“Be brave, and be kind.”

How much needless suffering and judgment would be done away if we could all live in a world where those two virtues were assiduously cultivated? To break the walls of fantasy and return to the real world for a moment, that’s exactly the message that one finds in Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Other human beings can take away from you everything you have – your clothes, your home, your food, your very life – but if we retain our bravery and our kindness, then no one can steal our humanity. Living in the poorest circumstances is not, in the end, an excuse for cruelty or parsimony or cowardice.

I left the theatre today with a heart full of gratitude that there are those in the world who are willing to put messages like this into the public stream of consciousness. Sure, they did it to make money, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I want desperately to live in, and work for, a world where kindness and beauty and bravery and goodness are the rule rather than the exception.

Cary Elwes was the perfect Westley, Robin Wright the perfect buttercup. The Princess Bride should never be defiled with a remake. In my book, Cinderella has reached a zenith with this production, and needs never more to be tampered with.

Overall rating – ten out of ten stars.

10Stars

Cinderella-2015-cinderella-2015-37349615-245-323

Dang, those slippers, though.

The Old Wolf has spoken.