Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Meeting With God

The line seemed to stretch for miles as he stood on the clouds. Light gleamed brightly all around and yet it bothered no one at all. It sparkled and shone as if gold and diamond while remaining entirely invisible--a contradiction of the senses yet altogether understandable. Time became relative as if it never were before. The line simply moved and disappeared in a matter of seconds despite each discussion at the gates taking minutes and in some cases hours. Before he knew it, he stood third in line as he listened in to the two conversations before him.

A lady approached the gates full of confidence intent on walking through as she outstretched her arms exclaiming, "My Lord! How great it is to see you!"

"Lord?" A being replied as two shimmering, glowing guards held their hands up before the lady indicating that she should stop. "Lord?" The being repeated inquisitively. "How is it you call me Lord? I do not know you at all."

Aghast, the woman replied, "But, my Lord, I served you every waking hour of my life! How can you say you do not know me?"

"How can you say that you do know me? When have I asked anything of you that you might serve me?" The being spoke calmly while sitting in a majestic chair as one might expect of a deity. The light shining all around the chair masked any resemblance of human qualities that the sitter might possess. "I assure you, I have asked nothing of you and I do not know you."

"I... I'm Kris! Kris Chin! You must know me... You died for me! You said you would put my sins as far from me as the east is from the west... I... I don't understand." She paled as she tried to make sense of her situation.

"I assure you, Kris, I would never say such a thing. You see, east and west are mere constructs of mankind who walk the planet of Earth. Their unimaginative shortsightedness is demonstrated in the futility of such a meaningless statement. If one travels far enough east, she finds herself west. One can take a step to the east and immediately take a step to the west. Each step east makes the previous step west which once was east. If I promised to to put your sins as far from you as east is from the west, I have promised nothing at all. Your sins remain beside you in all directions and wherever you stand. East and west are relative and exist simultaneously in any one location."

Kris held back tears as she shook her head in disbelief. "I loved you with every ounce of my heart. I trusted you to save me."

The being replied gently, "It is not me whom you have trusted and known; we have only just met. You appear to have me confused with someone else. I must admit that I am surprised and slightly bemused if not for your grief that such deep love as you profess could have you mistake me for your life's devotion. Tell me, who is it that you believe so resembles my personage? I should like to meet her."

Kris's face contorted in confusion. "I... he... well..."

"My apologies, do tell me about him then," the being kindly interrupted.

"Well, I am talking about God. He is all-loving, all-kind, all-powerful, all-knowing, and he exists everywhere and in everything."

"Wow, I am flattered to have been confused with such a man!" the being exclaimed, "though clearly I am not existing everywhere and in everything. I sit before you now as you can see. I also have as of yet to demonstrate any such qualities to you. How is it that you confused me for him? Do we look alike?"

Kris stammered a little, "Well... I... yes. I mean, I think so."

"You think so?"

"Well, I've never actually seen him before," she explained, still a bit unsure of her situation and her deep convictions.

"I see. So you have never seen this man but you presume he looks similar to me. Tell me, how do you know the character of this man if you have never met him?"

"He is not a man," Kris said, "he is God, and God is love. And I know him, I just haven't seen him."

"An interesting disposition," the being replied. "You say you know him without seeing him and yet you mistook me for him. How do you know anything about him?"

"Well," Kris continued, "from the Bible--God's Word. And I talked with him every day."

"So his voice sounds much like mine?"

"No. I mean, I don't know, he never spoke to me audibly."

"I see..." the being trailed off.

"I spoke aloud to him, but he guided me with understanding as I read his written word in the Bible. He guided every aspect of my life."

"It says here that you died of cancer," the being prompted, "and spent the last three years of your life suffering unduly at the hands of chemotherapy."

"Well yes, but God helped me through it."

"You died," the being reminded, "and suffered up until that point. In what way did he help?"

"He kept me happy despite the pain and gave me promise of eternal life for my faith in him."

"The records indicate there were many cries of pain and much unhappiness during those three years. How can you say he kept you happy?"

Kris thought about it for a second, "I kept hope and faith to press on. It brought me joy when I thought about it. I wasn't always happy, but my faith in God's promises always brought me back."

"I see. So you brought your own joy when considering the promise of eternal life from your god. What was your contribution to this promise?" the being inquired.

"I... I believed. I kept the faith. I accepted his gift. It was nothing that I did on my own. He promised that I just needed to accept it."

"And this promise came from the Bible?"

"Yes."

"And you believed it?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

Kris stared blankly. She had no idea how she knew the Bible was true--she simply knew. She had never studied apologetics or tried to convince anyone of this truth. It simply resonated with her. It brought her comfort and joy and so she continued to believe. What could she say to answer this question? "I don't know," she offered sullenly.

"I see. Well, it was nice to meet you, Kris, you may pass. Follow the signs marked "Bible."

Kris's face lit up. "You're letting me in?" she asked exuberantly.

"Well yes, everyone gets in, it is simply a matter of where they go. Move along. Next!"

Kris, overwhelmed with joy and confusion, walked through the giant gates as instructed and followed signs marked "Bible." To her surprise, there were no other marked signs to follow. The road veered off at times, but the signs were blank apart from the ones reading "Bible." She continued as instructed wondering what might lie ahead.

Another man approached the gates and spoke to the brightly lit being on the chair, "Ha ha! Wow! That lady sure was stupid! What an idiot, right?"

"You may pass," the being responded. The man waltzed through the gates strutting importantly. "Oh," he instructed, "follow signs for 'asshole.'" The man's countenance dropped and his eyebrows furled as he scoffed. He continued to walk and, to his surprise, saw many florescent and glowing signs marked "asshole." One sign in particular pointed right at him and followed him as he moved. Indignant, he walked the unmarked roads in defiance.

Finally, the man witnessing these conversations approached the gates. "Um, hi. Uhh, what is this place? Who are you?" he managed to get out.

The being responded cheerfully, "Why, this is the afterlife, of course! I am Dee Itty. I am with human resources here. You would be surprised how many people do not ask me that question, though. So many seem to think they know already. They generally revere me as some kind of God and expect me to do favors for them."

"Oh. Uhh, nice to meet you, Dee. I'm Hue Manist. I didn't really expect there to be an afterlife, so I'm a bit shocked here. So what now? I saw the people before me and I can't say I know what happens next," Hue concluded.

"Well," Dee explained, "we have a few different settlements similar to the concept of countries. It is my job to determine which one you would be a good fit for. Sometimes it is not immediately clear who should go where and so I send them on special missions to determine their true character."

"So these settlements are based on character?" Hue reasoned.

"Character and personality mostly. It would not be a very decent eternity for a compassionate person to be roommates with a torturous barbarian, for example. Or an intellectual to live beside those who have never had an original thought in their life. It would be quite frustrating for both parties."

"That makes sense," Hue nodded. "So what will become of Kris?"

"Kris needs further study and psychological support. She will follow the signs marked "Bible" until she finds the futility in it. As she begins to reason, the signs will change and she can begin to see with her own eyes and think with her own mind. Then we can truly see what she is made of. With people like her, it is difficult to tell what she thinks since she allowed someone else to do it for her all her life. It is such a mixed bag of people where some are nice and some are not. They all profess the same basic ideal in life--faith in God--and yet some will torture anyone who disagrees with them, chop of heads, or commit genocide against everyone else, while some will simply live no different than the average person. A select few will even take to being kind and compassionate toward others although usually in hopes of spreading their beliefs."

"And what of the man before me?" Hue asked.

"The signs marked 'asshole' will lead him to one of the lesser settlements where he can live as he sees fit. Of course, he will likely spend a great deal of time wandering aimlessly until he must acknowledge who he is and actually follow the signs marked out for him. People like him have little capacity for understanding the point of view of others and so he will live out his years with similar people. He will either grow to understand and change in which case he may be given special privileges to move, or he will forever complain, mock, and jeer as he has done all his life. If he is not satisfied with either option, there are provisions in this settlement to erase one's existence. We are not particularly fond of torture here but we are also not fond of people walking all over others. It is the best we can do."

Hue nodded in agreement. After some thought, he asked, "And what of me, then? Where will I go?"

Dee returned the question, "Where would you like to go? What kind of place would suit you the best?"

Hue opened his mouth to speak and cut himself short. "Hmm..." he pondered. "Well, at first thought I would have asked to be where everyone is constantly loving, caring, compassionate, and thinking of others. But, while I am indeed those things at times, it is not constant. I, too, can be selfish and I would not fit in well with such a group. To be honest, I often prefer to be left alone to some degree without others constantly worrying about me and what I'm doing. I guess I just want a place where I can be me and everyone else can be themselves. A place where we are considerate and caring, yet not particularly focusing on others unless that is within our own interest. I want to live in a place where we can pursue our creativity and enjoy the creativity of others. A place where we can seek out new ideas and strive for our passions. I want to be recognized and enjoyed for who I am and what I do even if I am not the best, but simply because it is me and what I enjoy. Is there a place like that?"

Dee smiled behind the veil of light. "And do you think that you can live out this ideal yourself?"

Hue responded, "I think so," as everything around him began to melt and blow away in the wind. Hue stood hovering over nothing and before him stood Captain Picard of the USS Enterprise. He pointed at Hue with a grin and said, "Make it so!" In a flash, Ayth Eist awoke in his bed only to realize that this had all been a dream. He pondered the meaning behind it all just long enough to remember that dreams have no explicit meaning beneath the mysterious workings of the brain as it processes and organizes information. He felt strangely comforted, however, as he considered the words of Hue and the conversations with Dee. Surely, Ayth could see the wisdom in all of it given that it had been derived of his own mind. He decided then that he would take Captain Picard's challenge to "make it so" on Earth. Ayth Eist decided to be just like Hue Manist.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Stereotypes Are Not The Problem; Being a Dick Is

I will give kudos to George Takei for sharing the particular article linked here as well as kudos to Nalin Gupta who wrote the article. It was refreshing to see someone articulate that gender inequality and stereotypes are not simply a female problem. And, although not explicitly stated, and perhaps even counter to the point, it helped me to realize the true issue at hand. In all reality, stereotypes are not the problem; being a dick is.

In all the things depicted in the article, the problem became apparent through shaming. Men are shamed for being weak and "girly." I argue that this is not a problem with stereotyping. Stereotypes are useful in many ways and are quite often accurate for the larger part of the population. They also demonstrate preferences of the majority which is helpful to know. The only time this becomes a "problem" is when people choose to belittle others who do not fit the cookie-cutter norms. The problem is not the cookie cutter; it is the people who think everyone ought to be a particular shape of cookie.

The rough and tough man image is a common stereotype of manliness. One that I do not fit in the slightest. I am weak, I do not like sports, I do not know the difference between rib-eye, sirloin, and what-have-you, I have no interest in guns, and I know very little about the mechanics of vehicles. These are all great stereotypes of the typical male of which I do not align with. Is this a problem? By no means. I have no problem with the fact that I do not fit this stereotype. And sure, if someone throws a male-oriented party focusing on sports, guns, and women I am going to be under-enthused. And yet, the majority of males are likely to enjoy the party. And that is great for them. I will just hold a different party with people more like me. The problem truly starts, however, when people mock me for my weakness and lack of knowledge in sports and automobiles. I could not care less about my lack of fitting the stereotypical norm and those who do care only care because they have been degraded for it. So again, it comes down to mocking and jeering rather than the norm itself.

The depictions of men and women in magazines and movies are generally the stereotypical roles because that is what most people idolize. If they idolized something else, surely the media would pick up on it and sell that instead. They sell what people want. People want curvy women and buff, hairless men. If all things were equal in personality and we each had to choose between sexy or fat, the majority of us would prefer the sexy. We might choose the fat simply out of fear because we, ourselves, are fat and feel unworthy, but that does not mean we truly prefer it. The average person prefers non-fat. But all things are not equal. I am desirable because of my personality, not because of my physical build. Someone with a muscular build might be far inferior to me because he is a complete jerk. I need not be "manly" to be appreciated or valued. I wish I were a nicer build, of course, since most people would prefer it, but this is no different than most people preferring sweet to sour. I will bring donuts to work sooner than lemons even if I am a lemon fanatic simply because I know what people prefer.

Stereotypes provide a means for knowing what most people prefer. Most girls prefer pink, soft, and cuddly so I am more likely to succeed in making a girl happy by giving her something soft and pink. Not all women are this way so I may find that it does not work with some girls, but for the average girl it would be sufficient. That does not make a woman any less valuable if she is more into sports than bunnies. It is simply not typical. And in this day and age, few people seem to even care about typical. Most people seem to want to be unique. Many people value uniqueness. The problem resides in those that do not value this uniqueness. Again, it comes down to people being rude. This is the problem we must fix. We need not remove stereotypes, we need to train people in tolerance and kindness.

It is not typical for a man to dress in women's clothing and, even if I were interested in doing so, I would not do it for the sake of my career. Knowing the preferences of those around me, I am going to avoid those things which are likely not to be shared preferences. In the same way, if I know that everyone is a Star Wars fan at work, I am not likely to dress up my cube with Star Trek paraphernalia unless I am looking forward to some [potentially friendly] harassment. The problem would only be with the jerks who think I am less of a person for preferring Star Trek. There would be no problem with stereotyping my workplace as a Star Wars-loving enterprise even though I am more into Star Trek. I would not fit the stereotype, and yet it is not a problem to recognize that the stereotype exists. Stereotypes are nothing more than preferences or qualities of the majority. There is nothing wrong with them. We simply need to be fair to those who do not fit within them as neatly as others. We need not fight stereotypes and tropes, we need merely combat being an ass-hat.


Monday, July 6, 2015

It is a Shame Few Will Share This


It is a shame that few people will share this, but if you do not then clearly you are evil and bound for hell. I have seen many memes along the lines of this sentiment. Most often, they are religious in nature where they appeal to one's faith and indicate that they are not faithful or that they are ashamed of their faith if they do not share. It surprises me how many people do not simply scoff and refuse to share such things knowing that it has nothing to do with their faith and everything to do with their refusal to be manipulated.

It makes sense, however, that these are religious in nature since most religious people tend to be fear-oriented. They fear hell and they fear rejecting God. The fear is set strong and hard so much so that they dare not question their faith and anyone doing so is quickly lambasted with insult rather than responded to with logic and reason. Such people are easily coerced into all kinds of foolish behaviors including voting against their best interests.

The Republican party is quite versed in its fear-based tactics. They appeal to the religious nature of the masses and indicate that they are the Godly party because they fight against abortion and gays. What is interesting, however, is how much they uplift the wealthy and do not help the poor. Jesus' 3-year mission was all about helping the poor and he rarely mentioned anything regarding sex whatsoever. He certainly never mentioned anything about homosexuality or abortion specifically. When it comes to morality, whether or not we agree eye to eye on these things, there is a greater evil occurring right before our eyes but the religious are slow to see it.

Religious people are too quickly caught up in the rhetoric of fear. The Mexicans are taking our jobs, the Muslims are infiltrating our country, ISIS is going to kill us all, and the gays are going to have God destroying our country like Sodom and Gomorrah. Oddly enough, Ezekiel 16:49 claims the reason for Sodom's destruction had more to do with lack of concern for the poor than any sexual misconduct: "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."

But fear works. It works too well. It is time to realize that our country will be destroyed economically by uplifting the Pharisaical Republicans who destroy widows houses and make a show of their religion long before God destroys us for any perceived immorality of a sexual nature. We need to realize that Jesus cared for the poor and did not provide a stipulation of worrying about those cheating the system. Jesus recognized that the poor were oppressed by the rich and not the other way around. There might be people here and there that abuse the system, but that does not mean we ought to vote in favor of the rich at our own suffering and that of the 99% of people. If you are worried about God, let God deal with the system-abusers. Meanwhile, let us do what we ought and help those in need: the poor and middle class. Jesus would have been a Democrat much sooner than a Republican by today's party definitions. The Republican party is equivalent to the party of the Pharisees from Jesus' day.

It is a shame that few Christians will understand this, but if they love Jesus and truly care for this country, then they will drop the Pharisaical Republican party and vote in line of helping the poor and the 99% over the top 1%. Our nation can be great, but we need to focus on loving the 99% more than on our fears of invaders and being taken advantage of. The more we vote Republican, the more we guarantee being taken advantage of by the rich. It must stop. The wealthy have enough power and it is time to bring a voice back to the people. If you care at all for the direction of our country, share this with as many people as you can. And if you do not share this, then you will have bad luck for 10 years and all your loved ones will suffer crazy ailments but if you do share then you will receive money within the next month and Jesus will be happy and mana will probably fall from heaven and everyone will be happy. Remember, if you love Jesus, you will share. But, if you hate him, then just ignore this like everyone else.

(note: the threats and promises are intended to be obviously facetious and are not to be taken literally. Still, if you love Jesus...)