Thursday, May 10, 2018

Streak of Misery

There’s blood in too many of them, I suppose
But it’s so red and bright like liquid fire
And I grew up singing about its power
And lived with a guy who was a vampire.
And when you see it, there’s usually pain
And when you lose it all you’ve lost everything
And when its pressure is too high, you might die
and then pressure just drops to not a thing.
But maybe it’s just because it is so shocking
Except that I do it too much till it’s dull
Maybe it’s just because it is just so pretty
But you can be too used to beautiful.
That bright red streak of misery delights
me against the falsehood of vast white (k)nights
I believe ignorance is really bliss
I believe this with a book in my hand
While trying to know, I still believe this.
It burns, but I try to understand.
And I was happier when not knowing
And my soul still seeks to know even more
And sadomasochistic researching
And I’m an academic pimp-bruised whore
But I study to show myself approved
Except that I do it to show that I’m smart
Maybe I just like the way that it hurts
But you can be sure it tears me apart.
That bright red streak of misery delights
me against the falsehood of vast white (k)nights
I thought there were political answers
to the problems, and cures for social ills
and that art could save those who Jesus missed
and peace could come through those who the war kills
And I still do like the Constitution
And a nice impressionistic painting
And a ringing heavy metal balad
And I have passed out from breath abating
But there is nothing in a President
Except another guy who’s prob’ly wrong
Maybe a pain-filled poem can ease the pain
But there’s no panacea in a song.
That bright red streak of misery delights
me against the falsehood of vast white (k)nights

Monday, May 7, 2018

Zombie Tonight

This week I spent too many nights sober
I was left thinking about all the things
I thought when I was younger I’d do older
And about how cheaply I sold my dreams.

But I didn’t see the rising plague to come
music and magic would not be enough
I didn’t know how bad I’d need a gun
I thought that living on the streets was tough

But now I’ve broken to the other side
The grass here’s not as dank and not as green
And the truth of the matter is a lie
And only the broken know what I mean 
Zombies don’t feel mind altering effects
Zombies don’t care about what’s coming next

Why can’t the necromancer let me rest?
Why can’t the soil keep me safe underneath?
Why not just stop with sins I’ve confessed?
Why do I still have to eat but not breathe?

But I didn’t know that sex was a drug
Or drugs were just sex for that matter
I didn’t see that shame was a wine jug
That hope was just cake to make you fatter

But now I’ve broken to the other side
The grass here’s not as dank and not as green
And the truth of the matter is a lie
And only the broken know what I mean. 
Zombies don’t feel mind altering effects
Zombies don’t care about what’s coming next

I’ll use one bullet over and over
To change my mind and to splatter my brain
I miss because I have too much cover
Provided by walls, Provided by pain

Do you know cantrips to mend my cracked soul?
My pain’s invisible until it strikes.
Then it fires its round and it leaves its hole
Reverberating in an open mic.

But now I’ve broken to the other side
The grass here’s not as dank and not as green
And the truth of the matter is a lie
And only the broken know what I mean 
Zombies don’t feel mind altering effects
Zombies don’t think about what’s wrong or right.
Zombies don’t care about what’s coming next
And I want to be a Zombie tonight. 
Zombies don’t feel mind altering effects
If you shoot them down, they do not mind
Zombies don’t care what’s coming next
Zombies don’t care what they left behind 

Zombies don’t feel mind altering effects
Zombies don’t feel hate or love when they fight
Zombies don’t care what’s coming next
And I want to be a zombie tonight 
Zombies don’t feel hate or love when they fight. 
And I want to be a zombie tonight. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Epiphany

There was a concern once, probably founded, that we were holding to a form of godliness but denying its power with our rituals and our traditions.

So we minimized the role of Rite in our lives. We divested our faith from our religion because religion, we knew, would not get us into heaven. It's all about a relationship now.

But it's a relationship without context a relationship without action as if you could be in a relationship with someone and never do anything together.

Tonight is 12th night or Epiphany. A totally meaningless day, since we've stripped it of all meaning.

 Once we celebrated the coming of the Magi and the gifts they gave to Jesus. Once we said that there were 12 Days of Christmas this being the last. There's even a song which survives so from that time. Most people don't even know what it means, the exact opposite of what we were attempting to do when we divested our faith from our rites.

Once we saw it as the end of the Christmas season. I think if any end of the Christmas season exists now probably most people see it as New Year's. It's close enough I suppose.

Biblically the coming of the Magi is likely the end of the story of Jesus infancy. And so it's fitting to have that be the end of the Christmas season. But I guess Christmas and the Bible have nothing to do with each other; the Supreme Court has ruled on this.

Yeah it's important to end the Christmas season and it's important to end the time when we think of Christ as a baby. The Incarnation is probably the most important part of Christianity. However the Incarnation does not end with the nativity. The most important parts of the Incarnation occur after the Nativity.

It matters that God himself became a man, not just became a baby, and that he lived a perfect life as a man and died a sacrificial death that freed us from our sins. When Martyrs died and when Saints spoke it wasn't for a baby in a Manger as amazing as that was. It was for a man who was God and the amazing new way he taught us to live and the amazing sacrifice he gave.

So if we're no longer going to celebrate Jesus becoming a man, not just a baby, through Rite, then we should at least acknowledge the moment in words.

Or perhaps it is okay to go ahead and do it in  rite.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Crying over movie trailers.

Coming to terms with a silly emotional reaction

I cried about a movie trailer today. This is because I am a nerd. I always have been, but for a long time, I didn't want to be. Now, I am okay with it.

I suppose it was around 2009 when I was really contemplating life due to a job loss that I realized that I wasn't really an academic. My academic credentials, positions, and publications were just a side effect of something that was true of me at a core level.

I am a geek, a dweeb, and a nerd.

I am a computer building, D&D playing, fantasy book reading, bad poetry scribbling, html coding, weirdo.

I'm not a hacker or programmer, but I know when movies consulted with real hackers. And I can write html, a little Java, a little Python. I can definately read your code and tell what you're trying to do. If it's not working though, I can't always tell you why. One time a real programmer and hacker told me I was a "power user." I liked that term. I've built computers and rebuilt broken ones. It's fun.


I'm not a scientist. I am sooo not a scientist. How many times did I take zoology in college before just deciding that I could live with a "D" because "A's" in other subjects made up for it? I am thinking at least four times. On the other hand, one of those "A's" was in physics, but whatever. I am no scientist, but I love the pop science articles. I can easily get caught up in an Ars Technica article about string theory.

I also love pseudo-science. I think most of it is bunk, but if you are a serious flat-earther, I will listen to you rant all day. I'll think you're nuts, but I'll listen. You might even think I agree. I won't, but I will be fascinated by how you think everything will work if the world were flat. Anti-vaxers, biorhythms, reiki healing, astral projection, chem-trails. I'll think you're nuts, but I will love to hear about it.

Partly, I love it because I love science fiction. This new Star Trek series, Discovery, I'm going to wait until it hits Netflix or Prime, but I've watched every episode of every Star Trek series so far and read a lot of the books. I wouldn't call myself a Trekkie or Trekker (but I know the difference), because that is too specialized a nerd. I am more of a general nerd. Besides I like Star Wars better, which disqualifies me immediately from being a Trekkie or Trekker.


The reason I like Star Wars better is because of the Force. The Force is magic. Oh, it's got this whole philosophical Platonic Buddhist thing going on, but no one really gets it. Every magical system in every fantasy universe has some kind of philosophy behind it. I think that's part of why I love fantasy. I like it better than science fiction. I almost feel like science fiction is fantasy cheats because in most science fiction if you ask "why does magic work in your world?" the answer is "it's not magic, it's science, just science that we don't understand yet." There''s no question as to why it would work in an ontological sense, the way there has to be in good fantasy.

Of course, it wasn't really magic that got me into fantasy. It was dragons. Oh, my, goodness, I love dragons. Why? Because. They. Breathe. Fire. Not all of them do, of course. In the D&D worlds including Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms dragons can breathe all kinds of things: ice, sleeping gas, lightening, acid, etc. But even there, by far the most powerful dragon breathes fire. If you don't get why that is amazing, I just can't explain it to you.

As a junior higher, especially, my notebook was filled with pages and pages and pages of attempts to draw dragons. There were also a lot of attempts at elves, especially elf girls/women. The main reason for this is that elves are beautiful. That's the whole point of them really. Women are also beautiful. They're kind of magic too. They don't breath fire, but they make babies which is even weirder if you think about it. What's more, men's part in that process is kind of interesting too. So, I'd try to draw them. I am not a very good artist, especially in the visual arts. Still, I draw all the time. I still try for dragons and elf-chicks, but mostly I do weird patterns, kind of like zen-tangles, or mandalas or something.


I like to think I'm better at written arts. I write bad blogs, like this one, academic articles in rhetoric and media ecology, poems (meter and rhyme, mostly and mostly sonnets), and science fiction and fantasy stories. The only things I've really had published were the academic works. I get paid to do that. Not directly, it's just part of my job to do it, so I do. Still, I love to write. I love to play with ideas in a way that you can't play with them any other way. I love to explore my own mind. Nerds are kind of narcissistic sometimes. I am most narcissistic in my writing. I love to sit and read what I've written.

I'm not saying it's good. Maybe it just feels magic to me. Dragons breathe fire. Women make babies. I make words. It is my best super power.

And I find super powers fascinating. I was the generation that Marvel tried to bring back with their Secret Wars series that was coupled with a toy line through Mattel and other various pre-teen marketed tie-ins in the 1980's. It worked. Most people grew out of it. I did. I stopped reading comics in high-school and don''t think I read one in college. When I got to grad-school, however, and especially in the PhD. program, however, so much of the reading was so heavy and my program had a lot of critical theory in it, which I find depressing. Somehow, I found my way back to comic books then, especially what are called "trades" which are graphic novels created from putting a bunch of comic books together.


Sometimes, you just need to see the bad guys get their faces smashed in. Especially when you're hip-deep in Derrida and Foucault and realizing you might be the bad guy, you''ve got to kill it. It actually makes a lot of sense if you look at the rhetorical concept of catharsis, especially the way Kenneth Burke theorizes it, but Aristotle too. The idea is that you need to identify with the evil inside you and see it smashed. Comics fulfill that need for me.

So do video games which I also picked back up in grad school after a near-decade hiatus.What happened was my little brothers were playing Final Fantasy 10 (FFX) one Christmas when  I came home. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life. It was also magical and technological and all these other things I love. Last time I really looked at video games, it had been Super Mario Brothers, which was cool, but not like this. I took out extra on my student loans when I got home (to school) and bought a PS2 and FFX. I still mostly play PS2 games. There is too much downloadable content in more recent games. It makes them frustrating to me. I want the whole game when I buy a game.


All of this is just to say, I'm a nerd. Among my other nerdy characteristics is that I have really developed a love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It brings a lot of my loves together. The comic universe is huge, and I really can't keep track of it all. The MCU, however has 17 movies and a dozen TV shows. I love it.


Today I saw the trailer for the new Avengers movie in the MCU. At the end of the trailer, I cried. It's not the first time I cried for a trailer. Star Wars trailers have done it to me too. I'll post the trailer here.

Now, I'll admit, the holidays are all around me. The end of the semester is hard on professors, emotionally. I've been having weird complicated dreams that I think have spiritual aspects that I am not up for. Our church is experiencing massive growth and change, which is good, but destabilizing. I probably just needed to cry and the trailer gave me cause.

Monday, October 30, 2017

I am done with the "real world."

Coming to terms with the real world


"Because that's what adults do" or "because that's the way the real world is" are stupid arguments for doing things. 

I will no longer be swayed by them. I will no longer choose how to behave, what to teach, how to raise my daughter, or how to express my spirituality because of them.

They are the equivalent of "because I said so." I am going to a class on Tuesday nights offered by headstart called "Father Power." It is good.  One of the things the facilitator has taught us is that saying "because I said so" is the ultimate in verbal and psychological abuse. It suppresses the human being emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, ethically, and creatively. "Because that's how the real world is" does the same.

Good things don't happen in "real life," but they happen to me. 

Every truly great decision I have made and every good thing that has happened to me has been in defiance of "reality" or at least the "real world" to which people are constantly referring. Packing stuff into a car and travelling a thousand miles to a place where I had no family or friends for graduate school was good. I had no money to move to where I am now, so "in reality" I shouldn't have taken the job site unseen on a temporary basis, but I did. So, a person I kinda knew packed everything in a horse trailer and moved me here. My temporary position became permanent. That doesn't happen in "real life." My wife couldn't get pregnant. One ovary was gone the other had a 6cm cyst blocking it. Now I have a 4 year old girl. Forget the "real world."

I've written poems, played D&D, danced and sang before the throne room of the Lord God Almighty, swam in lakes, built fires in the back yard, watched superheros crash into buildings, written books about things I was thinking about, thrown rocks into a puddle, caught fish just to throw them back in the water, and shared peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with a loving dog. I've told stories, ridden horses to which I am allergic, fired hundreds of shotgun shells at little clay plates, watched the sunset from the Eiffel tower, sat down to wait for Old Faithful to erupt again, had sex, drunk whiskey, read the Bible, hugged a gangster, developed a reading knowledge of a dead language, and bought a guinea pig.

These things have all been varying degrees of "real" but none of them was done because that's what you have to do in "real life." In fact, all of them were done to a greater or lesser extent in defiance of what you have to do in "real life." They were done in rebellion against "what adults do." They made me happy and are, I would say, all good, moral things to have done.

The "real world" makes you do bad things

I could create an equal list of things that I have done because "that's what you have to do in real life," or "that's what adults do." I won't, but I could. I started to, but deleted it. The things on that list range from the dreadful, to the banal, to the downright evil. I've done them because while I might have ideals, I had to face "reality."  

Do you think Manafort is being indited today for ignoring the "reality" in which he found himself? No, he did what you have to do in real life. Do you think that a little boy in the SS thought he wanted to grow up and gas Jews? No, he was responding to the reality in which he found himself and doing what he had to do in the "real world" because he was an "adult." All of the most horrible things I have done have been because I was "facing facts" and "doing what I had to do." 

The "real world" that "adults" live in isn't even real

My intellectual life for the past four years has been increasingly influenced by media ecology. Media ecology is all about how media and thought patterns interact and exist. What I have learned is that the "real world" that "adults" inhabit isn't even real. It's constructed by our interactions with various communication and can certainly be constructed another way through different interactions. Worse than that, however, it is manufactured through various interactions that actually make us think that we consented to various things that we never would have wanted or needed or desired if the world were "real." Well, guess what, you no longer have my consent, "real world."

As a Christian, we aren't even supposed to be like the "real world."

We are supposed to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). Jesus prayed about us saying, "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" (John 17:16). This world is one in which the Devil is prince (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11), not someone we want to be like.

Instead of "acting like adults" and facing "the real world," we are to come as a "little child." Sunday we were visited by our district Pastor from the denomination. He challenged us to have "God sized dreams." You can't have those while focusing on the "real world."

There are good reasons to do things.

This doesn't mean I am going to stop paying my bills. To use electricity or water without paying for it is stealing and stealing is wrong. Exercise and healthy eating make our bodies better and are sometimes fun. The work I do is important and I am pretty uniquely equipped to do it, so I'm going to go to work.

There are good reasons to do things. Do them because they are beautiful. Do them because they are good. Do them because they are good. Aristotle chides young people because "καὶ μᾶλλον αἱροῦνται πράττειν τὰ καλὰ τῶν συμφερόντων" [and they grasp more at the noble than the useful], however, using similar language Paul argues that "πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε, τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε" [hold on tight to that which is noble] (1 Thes. 5:21). Aristotle's argument for practicality seems to fall on deaf ears for Paul and with good reason. That reason is that the purely practical is not a good reason. Good reason is a good reason.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Stronghold

Coming to terms with the reality of a stronghold

What is a stronghold?

Admittedly, the concept of a "stronghold" is barely Biblical. The word usually translated "stronghold" in the New Testament, ὀχύρωμα, only occurs once in the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 10:4.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete (1 Cor 10:3-6 emphasis added).
It is possible to find thousands of blogs and websites devoted to the concept (including this one). Googling "demonic strongholds" returns almost a million hits and googling "spiritual strongholds" produces over one million hits. That's a lot of hits based on one word that only occurs once in the Bible and rarely (if ever) in other Greek documents of antiquity. Without more context than this, I could never really even be comfortable with the translation, not that there are any alternatives I know about.

So, because of the loose scriptural basis, I think it's probably not a good idea to hold too tightly to the concept of a stronghold. Like a lot of things, it is a useful concept as long as it is a useful concept and can easily become a stumbling block (another barely Biblical concept), when it stops being useful. So, lets not take it too far.

First off, it's a metaphor.

Demons or the Devil don't really build houses in our minds or bodies. That is silly. I am not even convinced that Demons or the Devil have corporeal forms under normal circumstances that could live in houses. Furthermore, while these strongholds might be really useful to the broad class of spiritual beings who wish our downfall, I'm not even sure that they are necessarily always involved in creating them, maintaining them, or inhabiting them even in a metaphorical sense. So, let's not get too hung up on the metaphor either.

Like I said, however, they are useful to them. I'm sure that if they can figure out how to make a stronghold in our lives, they will. They don't like us and these strongholds are bad. Still, people who deal a lot in deliverance will tell you that they can drive out a demon, but if the stronghold is still there, it doesn't always solve the problem.

And that's important because in a real, literal, stronghold, the stronghold is good or bad depending on who's living there. If the bad guys are there, it's bad. If the good guys are there, it's good. But strongholds here are bad no matter who's "living" there and, like I said, I don't think anyone has to be.

They are made out of "arguments" and "high things" that are not "captive."

The reason that they're so bad is that they're made out of bad things. One thing that they're made out of is arguments. Some translations say "imaginings" or "speculations" and I don't get that. The Greek word here is λογισμός, and while I don't always feel confident enough in my Greek to argue over translation with the professional, credentialed, translators of most of the translations, λογισμός is a word with which I am intimately familiar as a rhetorician. λογισμός is logical argument.

And arguments are not simple assertions. Arguments are complex things composed of premises (in deductive cases) and inferences (in inductive cases) and conclusions. It is that complexity that makes strongholds strong. These premises and inferences are often intimately tied to our ontological perceptions and our sense of being in the world. What is real? Who are we? What are people like? What is the nature and essence of various things? The answers to those questions come together as premises leading us to conclusions about the nature of other things, ultimately leading us to act in the world in a certain way.

Then when we see or hear that these actions are sins, it can be overwhelming. Perhaps we will try to change the behavior, but that is difficult in the long-term because the behavior is behavior that makes sense. Or perhaps we will intensify the complexity of the logical argument in such a way as to say that it is not sin in this or that circumstance. The concept that our perception of reality is so flawed as to result in bad behavior is hard to take.

They are also made out of "high things" or  "lofty opinions." I am not entirely sure what this means, but I get a sense of "pride" coming out of it. Basically, elevating of the self one's own thoughts beyond where they should be. I think it might have something to do with the idea that we can take it. We can deal with it. We are strong enough. We are smart enough. Therefore, our opinions are good enough.

Then there are these thoughts that run around our mind not "captive." Failing to think about what you're thinking about. It is pretty easy to live an unexamined life from time to time. This leads to "mindlessly" doing things.

Do I have a stronghold? 

I don't know if you do, but I do. I just hit my top weight, again.

Now, don't get me wrong. Being a certain weight is not a stronghold, it is evidence of one for me. I have a recurring sin in my life, the sin of gluttony. I like to eat foods high in fat and carbs and eat a lot of them. I "like" to do so. There is my "lofty opinion."

Furthermore it seems "natural" for me to engage in this sinful behavior. I have altered the behavior many times. My guess is that in the past 10 years I have probably lost 500 lbs (which is significantly more than I weigh). Still, it is always easy to fall into "bad habits" which is a euphemism I like to use for my sins, whereas yours I will just call "sins." Cookies taste good and it is easy to eat six or seven of them. I don't like many cold foods, on the other hand, so salads are generally out.

It's not a sin to eat one doughnut, but how about two? Probably not. What about three? What if I only eat one, but then have a cheeseburger later and with that I have fries, well at that point I might as well have a soft-drink, right? Where is the line for gluttony? My entire ontological structure blocks me from knowing when I've crossed that line into sin.

And I generally don't even care (how's that for spitting on Jesus), until the sin reveals itself in my body. Then I have consequences. Then I alter the behavior, but the stronghold is still there. The arguments still make sense to me.

So what do I do about it?

I am not sure (this is why I'm a teacher, not a preacher. I don't have the answers to declare; I have the questions about which we can think). I think I've come close to getting this one before. The beginning is taking thoughts captive. Specifically, for my stronghold, that has to be thoughts around food. I've noticed that when I carefully keep track of calories and pay attention to macro-nutrients, I do better. So, I've spent the past week doing that and Monday-to-Monday lost three pounds.

The thing is that I've lost weight this way before. I've changed the behavior before by "taking thoughts captive" in exactly this way. It's a start.

Submitting myself to the Holy Spirit is important.

Lifting it up in prayer is important.

But there's something else. 

I think I've gotten them down in other areas. I don't smoke at all or get drunk anymore and haven't for a very long time. Those were once areas of my life I had to fight. Even the notion of looking at pornography on my computer frightens me now, whereas at one time I had no compunction at all against it and rolled my eyes at people who seemed to imply that merely looking at pictures was a sin.

Of course, merely looking at  pictures is not a sin, but looking in order to sin is a sin, and financing sin is a sin. It was when I realized the type of sins I was financing that really pulled me away from that stronghold. After I'd met and talked with women (my own students) trafficked into that industry and realized what was done to them and how their "consent" was obtained I realized that I was causing these awful things to happen by gleefully clicking my mouse. I didn't need special software or accountability partners after that. I was not going to go near the stuff.

David Hume (whom I would not say one should consult on theological matters generally) said that the will is "the slave of the passions." What he meant by this is that there needs to be some intense impression made that moves a person emotionally in order to bring arguments in line. I can point to several things that have tied intense emotions to food for me. Those produce the arguments.

Equal passion needs to arise in order to bring down the arguments. I don't know how to get that, but I think it's true. Somehow, overeating, gluttony, needs to become "exceedingly sinful." I need to really, really, see that it's wrong, not just that I don't want to be fat. I think when that happens, the stronghold will come tumbling down.

Until then, I am going to keep fighting, keep taking every thought captive. I pray the rest will come and  come before this kills me.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Condemnation


A quarter of the US is burning.
Did you know that? It's not really quite true
but close enough  to cause stomach churning
like those lovely hurricanes, white and blue

flooding our eastern shores already drenched
with heroin, racism, huddled mass
incarceration yearning to be quenched
if one more amnesty will just get passed.

In all that a family member's cancer
or a missing dog shouldn't make us pout
but if I start looking for an answer,
well, then, it's MY fault that the dog got out.

There's no condemnation for those in Jesus Christ.
At least, there's none from God. So, I guess THAT is nice.