The Long Road to Pantheism

My personal religious/spiritual journey has taken a lot of wild roads over the years, from Christianity, to atheism, to Unitarian Universalism, back to pure atheism, and then finally to where I am now. It’s been a wild ride for sure, and here’s a look at that.

I’m one of a rare lucky few people who did NOT have religion forced upon me as a kid. Of course my parents let me dabble, but it was never forced on me. My great-grandmother was a Buddhist (owing to her Japanese heritage), my mother nothing in particular and my (adoptive) father a lapsed Southern Baptist but not really serious about it. For the first 12 years of my life (my Roswell days) religion was absolutely not a part of my life. We never went to church, prayed, read holy texts, etc. ever. It just wasn’t a thing for us, and probably for the better for me as I didn’t have any indoctrination to undo later in life.

Moving to Abilene at age 12 changed everything. All of a sudden we were closer to my grandmother (dad’s mom) who is a very devout Southern Baptist. She insisted my younger sister and I go to church with her, which we did and thus I dabbled in that sect of Christianity for awhile. I have to say it didn’t make much sense to me at all, but I went along with the motions of a “profession of faith” and baptism anyway, mainly for the sake of placating my grandmother. I do have to say I found the whole fire-and-brimstone ideology quite frightening, and even somewhat contradictory – how could a loving God do that to any of his supposed children?

Needless to say that phase of my life didn’t last more than a few years, even though I remained believing some of the tenets of Christianity. I just knew I didn’t jive with that particular sect, and that’s when my then middle/high school art teacher brought up an activity at her church (an Episcopal church)  that I might be interested in – English-style bell ringing (or change ringing if you will), of which Abilene had one of only then 38 rings of bells in North America. The concept seemed appealing to me, so when I was able to drive myself I went up there to check the hobby out, but also to the service. I have to say I was hooked on change ringing from the outset, and the services were beautiful with the liturgy, etc. – it was something I hadn’t experienced in the Southern Baptist tradition. I was enamoured. Instead of the fire-and-brimstone focus, the focus on love, charity, the divine just kind of struck a chord with me. A year later, at the age of 17, I was confirmed an Episcopalian.

I would remain a steadfast and devout Episcopalian until my sophomore year of undergrad, deviating only with a short time dabbling with Mormonism on account of a very close friend (which didn’t last long, I should say). I went to a United Methodist affiliated institution for undergrad, so naturally we were required to take classes on religion. The first one I took was intro to Christianity, which was taught in a very non-sectarian, non-pushy way, almost from an outsider’s view – very objective. Studying Christianity from this point of view it made absolutely no logical sense to me, and as such, I began withdrawing from my faith, not entirely sure what I was.

The following year I took a world religions/comparative religion class from the same professor. In studying all the various religions we studied, I have to say none of them made sense to me. As such, I had but one default position to take, the only one that made sense to take at the time – atheism.

This is where I’d remain for the next 12 years of my life. At the beginning I was a very angry atheist too, and while that anger faded over time, it never really faded. During my grad school years I dabbled with Unitarian Universalism as I really missed the social aspect of church and such. It was a place I could be atheist and still feel like I belonged. I would be active in various UU congregations for a couple of years, withdrawing from it upon my return to Abilene and finding the one here was rather disappointing. That combined with a far-left political agenda, I was made to feel like a real outsider. When I left, not only was I an atheist, but I felt totally disconnected, bitter and detached. I was spiritually dead as it were.

And that brings me to recent events. This past March, when I went to visit Laina in San Antonio, she brought up my Sidereal chart and started walking me through it. As skeptical as I was (and especially since Tropical astrology didn’t really speak to me), I couldn’t help but notice uncanny bits of truth in it – it was like reading a book almost, except for the book was me. Of course, I would remain understandably skeptical, but as the months wore on, it would continue to speak to me in an uncanny way. I started believing it, because there was too much there that it seemed to know about me for it to be mere coincidence.

Then comes a July visit to San Antonio. Laina and I were hanging out by the pool at her complex, having drinks, cuddled up with one another and just shooting the shit. When the topic came up, she said something to me that took me by surprise – something along the lines of “and if you believe that, you’re not an atheist anymore.”

I thought about that on the trip home, long and hard. It was like “OK, whatever” but I didn’t know as though I wasn’t anymore yet, until she re-iterated it again a few days later. The more I thought about it, the more I realized she was right – I wasn’t. Of course that doesn’t mean a personal god exists, and I still don’t believe that (and neither does she). The notion of a personal god still doesn’t make the remotest amount of sense to me. However, in noting we are one with the universe, another form of spirituality started to fall into place for me – Pantheism, the belief that we are all a manifestation of the divine.

I couldn’t deny it any longer – I was, and am, a Pantheist. It’s so much more fulfilling than Christianity ever was for me, and definitely more fulfilling than atheism. As I begin to learn the ways of the universe and feel in tune with it, this becomes something that not only makes logical sense to me, but spiritual sense. Too many recent life events have taken place to dismiss as pure chance, but still impossible to chalk up to the handiwork of a personal god (which, if you look at the religions that have one, those are mostly religions of hate).

So that’s where I’m at now. Having leanred so much more about myself, that rings so true, but also much more to come. Though I still don’t refer to “god” personally (I personally prefer to say “the universe works in mysterious ways”), I feel in tune with the universe, an infinitesimal poart of it mind you. If a historical Jesus existed (a matter of debate), I think it’s safe to say he was ahead of his time. He knew he was god (or, as I prefer, a manifestation of the divine universe), as we all are. Of course, the whole virgin birth thing and resurrection 3 days later is hokey, but we know how stories get embellished over the years, especially when that whole thing didn’t come about until decades after it supposedly took place.

Hence my journey until now. I’ve still got more to learn, not only about astrology but of course the universe. I’m gradually learning its ways though, and will more as time goes on, with my impending move, to starting my business a little later on. The secrets of the universe will be paramount to making my business succeed, from finding the right business partner(s) to making smart business decisions. Above all, I finally feel like I’ve found something that brings me inner peace instead of the turmoil that I was left with for the first 32 years of my life. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Peace be with you all.

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The San Antonio Chronicles Episode 6: Marble Falls and Other Tidbits

Yet another San Antonio weekend has come and gone for me, and the more I visit there the more I get the itch to move. Between the much better vibe and it killing me to be apart from my twin soul sister, I’m almost at the end of my rope with regards to shitty ass Crapilene. Mercury Direct Station hits at approximately 11:00 PM Wednesday so then it’ll be time to get busy looking for places to live.

So I got in Friday evening as I always do, this time in a loaner vehicle as Phoenix is in the shop for some major surgery. Apparently she actually has a bad fuel injector (which I have never experienced in any other car I’ve owned) and the fuel system cleaner wasn’t enough to burn all the carbon deposits out. So far, between new plugs, new coils, a fuel injector and a carbon cleaning, we’re at about $1,250 worth of repairs on a car I have only had a month and a half. Needless to say the extended warranty has already paid for itself.

Anyway, I digress. I get in, and shortly after unloading we head out to Sushishima for a totally gluten-free sushi feast and, for me, a side of hot sake. From there, it was to her place for “happy hour” (which usually means a shot or two of Flor de Cana 12 and a nice strong cigar, and just a mixer of rum/soda and her vape for her). The night capped off by hanging out, watching a movie together, and lights out.

After a morning coffee and smoke Saturday, we ventured out for Marble Falls to visit a little hole in the wall diner called Tea Thyme. What makes this place so special is that it is 100% gluten-free. That’s correct. No navigation of the menu, no nothing. I ordered the same as Laina – the “Not Picky Tacos” (if I remember correctly) and they were heavenly, as was their chocolate chip cookie. Followed up the diner with a quick stroll in the park and then back to SA to chill for a bit.

That afternoon, after chilling, we set out to try to find Laina some thrift store jeans to hack up into DD’s (as she’s just been borrowing a pair of mine that had gotten too snug for me). We tried a couple of Goodwills but came up empty, and remembering Mercury is still retrograde, decided to pause that project for now and then ventured back over to The Cove for dinner.

Dinner at The Cove is always great; great burgers (which can be had with a GF bun or just lettuce wrapped), with some great GF sides too. I also ordered a couple of what I was told were gluten-free beers, however on further examination they turned out not to be GF at all. Omission beer says “brewed to remove gluten” and on the bottle it said “made from barley malt, this beer might contain gluten.” I’m glad I read that before I even took a sip. I was left feeling I had thrown money away on nothing but it’s a learning experience. Then it was again back to her place, where we had happy hour, jammed out for a bit, then called it a night.

Sunday morning started off with the usual routine of a nice smoke, after which we geared up for the day. Alas, before we got going, we just had to pause for a little “mirror selfie”…

…and then off to a little coffee shop called Mildfire for a little pick me up. I had the Americana Espresso which was delicious and gave me a good jolt. Just as we were about to take a bathroom break and leave, the barista pulled me aside and told me my shorts were “beautiful” and how she admired my confidence and said that I was the person she wants to be. I of course thanked her dearly, and had her come around front for a big, warm hug.

From the coffee shop, we went and had a delicious lunch at Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill. They were out of GF pita bread but I was still able to get a feast fit for a king even without bread. Leaving feeling satiated, we ventured to the vape shop so I could load up on my vape juice and then went back to her place.

Once we got back, it was time for a movie, and one I needed to see because it’s life-changing. If you’ve not seen it, I fully recommend Defending Your Life. It’s light-hearted but very inspirational. After the movie, which made me both laugh and cry, we flipped it over to the IndyCar race in mid-Ohio and watched a real thriller of a race.

By the time the race was done, my time was about gone so it was then I packed up and we said our teary-eyed goodbyes for now. I departed SA at 5:30 PM and arrived in Abilene right at 9. Luckily Laina was able to accompany me by phone for most of my journey.

Anyway, that’s what went down this time, but a few of interesting things happened on the side. Remember I said earlier that pair of DD’s Laina is borrowing from me were too tight for me now? Well I decided to try them on again for a moment, and lo and behold I can actually button them again! They’re snug, but I can button them easily. Three months ago I couldn’t, which means I’ve dropped a not-so-insignificant amount of weight without even trying. The only thing I’ve done different is being GF part-time and reducing my beer consumption, further adding credence to the gluten reactivity theory.

The second thing is I never knew how addicted I had become to my phone/computer and social media. This time around I did something different at Laina’s request – when we went somewhere I left my phone behind. I didn’t realize how much of our time together I was wasting on my phone, which was causing me to disengage. I did feel like the time we spent together this time around was much better quality and that I maybe should put the phone away more often in everyday life.

Lastly was what happened after I got back to Abilene. Since having been gluten-free since Thursday afternoon, last night I reintroduced gluten. Not long after dinner last night I had stomach cramps and nausea that lasted well into mid-morning today. In my mind that all but cements it for me. As soon as I get by blood drawn for the reactivity panels, I can go GF full-time and I intend to do so. For now, since I have to consume some, I’ll moderate my intake and cut beer entirely. That seems like a good initial step.

Anyway, that’s that for this trip. Stay tuned for more developments as it’s about to be crunch time.

“Greatest Country in the World?”

Seriously? Look at these statistics:

That’s pretty shocking isn’t it?

Yes, I just have to make an obligatory Independence Day post. And it’s not one that you’d expect from someone who actually lives in the states. Alas, here were my remarks on Facebook earlier today:

——————

Some sobering statistics. How does one even quantify “the greatest country in the world?” That’s all subjective opinion as it were.

I’m not saying I dislike this country. I’m also not necessarily saying I’d be less miserable elsewhere. However when we look at objective measuring sticks we see the subjectiveness of such a claim.

There is no “greatest country in the world.” There is no worst either. It’s a matter of personal opinion that when asserted as fact sounds totally asinine.

I pledge no allegiance to any country or government. I pledge allegiance only to my own conscience. I’m an American citizen on paper but at heart I’m a non-citizen of the world, for we are all interdependent upon one another regardless of some imaginary lines drawn in the earth.

Have a good day everyone.

——————–

So there you have it. I now leave you with this song, which has more substance to the lyrics than this entire country seems to. It’s also fitting in that this song perfectly describes the blind patriotism of most American conservatives.

Move and Other Life Updates

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a general life update, so I figured I’d do that here.

The first one, and the most glaring for everyone, is the status on my move to San Antonio. When is it going to happen? Quicker than I thought it might. Currently, I’m looking at a fall move date (after the upcoming Mercury Retrograde passes – I’ll talk more about that later). My boss has given me the blessing to work 100% remotely when the time comes, so long as I can show up in the office “as-needed” (which he will give me enough heads-up to be able to do so). It’s such a relief I won’t have to worry about a job hunt, because in today’s job market that could take months to years.

Laina came up and visited this past weekend, and we had a blast together and with a couple of my local friends. We went bowling, something I love to do but haven’t done in years and it sure as hell showed. We ate some great gluten-free food at a couple of my favorite local eateries. I showed her some highlights of Abilene (what few there are). She drove Phoenix for a little bit, did excellent for someone who hadn’t driven a manual transmission vehicle in 16 years, and I drove her pickup for a bit and realized just how easy it was to drive (oh, and I didn’t lock up the brakes trying to clutch!). I’ll be going back down to San Antonio this weekend for a visit, also, and to do some more scoping. This will be my first road trip with Phoenix, so I’m really hoping her ailing fourth cylinder has been cured this time around!

Concerning the gluten-free thing, I’m coming to realize in the few times I’ve gone gluten-free to make Laina’s life easier when eating out together or having drinks, that there is in fact a life after giving up gluten. Sure, there are so many things I won’t be able to have, but I’m surprised by how many things I will be able to still enjoy if I in fact have to go gluten-free. I wasn’t willing to consider it before, but now I totally am, for I want to stick around and see my vision come true. Once I get settled into my real home, I’ll have the panel run to see if it is in fact the thing. As mentioned previous, it could explain a lot of things ailing both my physical and mental health.

I’m slowly working at getting into music again. I’m playing my guitar and pipes more, and am gradually inching my way back out to performing again. It was a great outlet, and I loved it before that one time I got booed off stage. Singing along to the radio and jamming with a certain special someone and a close local friend has helped me to regain some of my confidence, and while I’m still a long way away from ready to getting back to performing, but my confidence is slowly returning. Very slowly, but returning.

Concerning my next tattoo, I think my next one won’t be a new one, but a re-work of an existing one – my dagger and Saltire flag. That one healed like complete shit. It’s already lost so much definition. Many lines are blown out, the color saturation is spotty and the detail in the dagger is blurred out. I’ve stopped putting sunscreen on that one and am letting the sun do its thing to lighten it up to make it easier to re-work. Hopefully that will come before the end of the year, for I’m out of ideas for a new tattoo at the moment but I still need to go under the needle regularly as that’s an integral part of my overall well-being. That tattoo was the only one my primary artist hasn’t done, and needless to say I’ve learned my lesson not to get tattooed in the back of a camper.

Anyway, probably the biggest transformation in me now? Remember how I mentioned Mercury Retrograde earlier? Recent months has served as sort of a spiritual awakening for me, getting in touch with my higher consciousness and the ways of the universe. It’s an angle I’d never considered before, but after so much of what Laina has shared with me about true Sidereal astrology (not the Tropical bullshit that came out of the Council of Nicea, along with that lying sack of shit called the Bible), and how true it’s rung to me in my own life, I can’t help but think there’s definitely something to it. Of course the Abrahamic/monotheistic religions are obviously total bullshit, but that doesn’t mean spirituality isn’t a thing. I can be quite comfortable being an atheist while adding that dimension, and it’s so very fulfilling. I’m just lucky my sign under both the real and fake systems is the same, for I’d already been permanently marked as a Pisces!

Is there anything else? I can’t think of anything at the moment, but those are my biggest life updates. I’m on my way to being a better version of me. Don’t worry – I’m still the short shorts (warm weather) and leggings (cold weather) clad, tatted, Aspie me I’ve always been and always will be. I’m just putting to rest some demons in my past and coming out of my shell more, embracing my true inner self. This has been a transformative experience for me, and it’s only the beginning. What’s next? Only the universal consciousness knows, but I can’t wait to find out!

The Phoenix Rises

Out of the ashes of the tragedy that was the untimely demise of my Fiesta, the Phoenix rises and I am blessed with this gem:

VW3VW4VW1VW2

I went backward two model years but way up in bells and whistles and driving experience. Sure it doesn’t have the same fuel mileage but damn it’s got some guts and is just a much more fun drive.

Really, you should have seen the look on my face the first time I gave it the juice and just took off. The clutch is super smooth, very easy on the leg, and engages at just the right point – not too high or too low. Responsive throttle, but the accelerator is floor mounted so you actually press the top of the pedal instead of the bottom. The only thing I don’t like about the car? No blind spot mirrors. I’m sure I can purchase those without too much cost though.

I guess everything does happen for a reason. I cried tears of anguish when I went to collect my things out of the Fiesta and say goodbye one last time. I’m crying as I write this post, but for the total opposite reason. This is a far nicer car than I ever thought I’d be driving in this life.

Sure, there’s still a grieving process, but having this will definitely ease it along and in due time I will be back to normal. In the meantime, I’m going cruising for a bit. Catch you soon.

“Everything Happens for a Reason…”

Does it really? I know a lot of people seem to believe that. It’s definitely hard to think what reasons something would play out the way it does (especially what seem to be misfortunes) but is it really true?

Last night on the way home from San Antonio, I missed a turnoff onto another road that set me back a few minutes as I found a convenient place to pull off and make a U-turn to get back on track. It was dark after all and this is a tricky part of the return trip due to the layout of the roads at that intersection. I thought nothing of it and got back on track, but it did set in motion a bigger misfortune that likely wouldn’t have taken place had I made the correct turn in the first place.

As it was, after making my way about another 20 miles or so I collided with a deer that popped out of nowhere. I was lucky in that the point of impact was on the very corner of my car, taking out only the driver’s side headlight and the quarter panel and just barely denting the hood and front bumper. I felt no recoil at all, nor did the seatbelt engage. I was able to “limp” my car the rest of the way home as there was only a small drivability issue in that the way the quarter panel was bent it was skidding the tire on bumps and such. Just taking it slow minimized this and I got home without further issues.

Needless to say I was shaken up at the outset though. I pulled over to assess the damage and immediately called Laina as I needed someone to talk to to calm me down, which she gladly took 30 minutes out of her evening to do so. She reminded me that “everything happens for a reason” even if we don’t know that reason. Maybe it could have saved me from bigger problems later?

Well, maybe it did. Just before my next major turn I came across another deer, and this one appeared to be freshly hit too. I thought that was an eerie sight at the outset, but after marinating it in my mind, would I have hit that one more directly with much more catastrophic results? Or would someone in front of me hit it to where I would not have had time to react and then I collide with the car?

Who knows? As badly as I felt for myself at the time, maybe something worse would have happened had I not missed that turn. I’ll never know, other than to say the universe has a really sick sense of humor at times. Yeah it sucked at the outset, but it could have sucked so much worse. In a way, I got lucky.

So does everything happen for a reason? That’s purely conjecture and we’ll never know for sure. Alas, I know there are worse things that could have transpired, and at this moment I’m just glad they weren’t worse.

I wouldn’t have felt this way a few months ago mind you. I’d have still been feeling sorry for myself. I would have been focusing on my own misfortune and thinking it was the worst thing in the world. Now I know it isn’t.

Funny how time flies, and funny how it changes you.

Aca-Awkward: Antinatalism and Birthdays

First things first, if you recognized the “aca-” pun in the title of this blog post, you need to get a life because apparently you’ve watched the Pitch Perfect movies one too many times (or maybe multiple times too many).

OK, not so irrelevant silliness aside, time to get a little serious. Not going to lie – birthdays are rather awkward for someone who identifies as an antinatalist, as I do (for an explanation of antinatalism, the Wikipedia article on it does a pretty good job of explaining the gist of the theory). Since in my view it is a harm to be brought into existence, and given that birthdays mark the anniversary of the day one was brought into existence, yeah it can be a bit weird to put it lightly.

I pull no punches about how I feel. Do I wish I had never been born? Without question or hesitation, the answer to that question is absolutely. I 100% wish I had never been born. As for the reasoning, I agree with Dr. David Benatar’s asymmetry argument between pleasure and pain. Whereas:

1) The presence of pain is bad, and

2) The presence of pleasure is good;

3) The absence of pain is good even if there exists nobody to benefit from that good, but

4) The absence of pleasure is not bad unless there already exists someone for which such an absence would be a deprivation.

When you consider this asymmetry, it follows that one is not benefited by the pleasures in life (even though they make a life go better than it otherwise would), but one is harmed by the pains in life. As such, it is always better never to be brought into existence.

That being said, antinatalism does not imply that we should all kill ourselves. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Death is actually a harm in and of itself. It is but one of many harms we will experience by having been brought into existence. In many cases it is a lesser evil as compared to continued existence, but it is still an evil nonetheless. Dr. Benatar explains this in more detail in his books Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence and The Human Predicament: A Candid Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions.

So with that, back to the topic of birthdays. Are they really cause for celebration? Maybe so. Again, antinatalism only speaks of coming into existence, not continued existence. Since we have already been brought into existence, maybe we should try to enjoy the time that we’re here. Maybe we should continue to learn and grow. Although our lives are cosmically meaningless, we do have the ability to give our lives temporal meaning. Another year older and wiser is nothing to sneeze at for the already existent.

Another perspective I’ve heard from some antinatalists (including one who is a friend of mine and actually shares my same birthday of the 18th of March) is that birthdays just mark one year closer to death. Perhaps that’s a little bit of a perverse view, but I can see merit in it. There will come a time that death is the lesser evil vs. continued existence. There comes a time in all of our lives that we are so overcome by pain that it’s not worth it to continue. Alas, that is a subjective value judgment and is up to each individual for his or her own life.

So are birthdays happy? I guess that’s up to the individual. It isn’t totally inconsistent for an antinatalist to celebrate a birthday, but it is a philosophical question that is hard to give an answer to. Whatever the case I’ll enjoy the cake, drinks, and the odd small gift. It’s those things that take the sting out of this thing called life after all.

I’m going to leave you all with this. This is a poem I wrote on my 27th birthday (2014 – five years ago). It is actually published in the 2014 edition of Famous Poets of The Heartland. I doubt I’m a famous poet but I guess I’ll take what I can get. Basically this sums up my personal view of birthdays the best I know how. I hope you enjoy it for what it’s worth.

———————-

That day which lives forever in infamy
Has once again come
The cursed day I was brought into existence
Arrives beating like a drum.
I try my hardest to forget about it
That wretched, awful day
For I’d have never been put here
If only I had my way.
As hard as I try not to think about it
Upon it I can’t help but dwell
My timeline overflows with reminders
All of them wishing me well.
I didn’t ask to be born
No, it wasn’t my choice
I screamed in protest that day
But it was as though I had no voice.
As this cursed day arrives
I can’t help but wish I had a gun
But I guess I might as well live
At least part of it has been fun.