And The White Lion Roars

This site is for those who refuse to accept mythology as literal truth, and instead question everything!

Month: December, 2013

The Airing of Grievances

Can we, for ohhhhh, maybe one year, put a moratorium on naming girls “Maria?” I understand the whole saint’s name thing, but can we, just once, think about the children, and how many other kids in their classrooms will have the same name? Surely there is a saint with some other name that can be used for female babies. I didn’t Google this one, but I’m fairly sure that Maria, or Marie or some other derivation would be the most common girls name, just as Mohammad is the most common boys name. Time for a change.

We’ve heard the use of the word “dame,” to mean a not exactly pejorative slang for a woman. Did it originate with the title “Dame” in Britain? Is it the same root as “damsel?”

“Thanks, Obamacare” is not punctuation.  I’m tired of it being used as such. Some of my customers at work use it that way, and I’ve heard it other places as well. I’m on the verge of beginning to throw it around as casually as some folks use “like” or “ya know.”

I was asked by a dear friend who is a pagan if I consider her “silly” for her beliefs. I do not. Historically paganism was a nature worshiping religion, and it still is. I can see some of that, even though I am a non-deist. She also believes in ghosts. I’ve never seen a ghost, but I think it would be very exciting and life changing if I did. But I cannot categorically deny that ghosts exist, as I can find arguments for the reasons I do not believe that “God” as I was taught him exists. I have watched TV programs on The Science Channel and The History Channel, and some of the “theoretical physicists” hypothesize some truly bizarre things, all without concrete evidence. Many of these programs engage in pure speculation about what the future will be like, and involve things like allowing us to live forever, or our minds being saved on computers and equating this to eternal life. What I think physicists have agreed on for a few hundred years is the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. That leaves a very large window open for what we become after we die. The energy that is us changes form. Whatever that may mean; I don’t think we can really count anything out, can we?

Most instinctive behavior evolved as “survival strategies,” from an innate desire to leave behind our offspring and continue passing on our genes. It seems counter intuitive to me that some of the great cats, such as lions, kill the babies of their prides. How is that a strategy for carrying on one’s genes? I get that sometimes this behavior is carried out by cousins, but it still doesn’t make any sense to me.

We’ve all heard lots of talk about American Exceptionalism, and whether or not we still have it. It has been shown that American students are not at all exceptional in the areas of math and science. Those who develop curriculum have diminished the arts and physical education aspects of our public education system to make more room for math and science teaching…so, why aren’t we creeping up on the competition in those disciplines? Could we regain our exceptionalism if we made our education a little more “well rounded,” as it once was? We lose a great deal as human beings without exercise, and without cultural education. Is it possible we also diminish the capacity for learning the technical skills we need when those things are taken away.

On watching one 0f my weekend news programs this weekend I heard a gentleman speak who used to be something called an “advocate” for New York City schools. The panel was discussing the poor children in NYC public schools, and the fact that they are coming to school hungry, which leaves them lacking in intellectual capacity. As a result these children have a double strike against them in learning enough to pull themselves out of poverty.  I was struck by the fact that this man referred to the children as “our children.” And it occurred to me that perhaps that recognition is missing in those who would cut school food programs for the disadvantaged students. Perhaps those legislators see these poor children as “their children,” as the children of that scary “other.” I remember how the horrible, terrible “S” (socialist) word got thrown at Hillary Clinton regarding her book, “It Takes a Village,” but she is so very right. If the children of the poor are ignored during early childhood, allowed to come to school too hungry to focus, leading to educational failure, then they will remain on the public dole, unable to stop the cycle of poverty for another generation. Surely some food costs way less than that?

If We’re Going To Get To The Truth, We’ve Got To Have Facts

My list of questions this week is long, but I think it may mean two posts because of a couple of things that happened this week that I feel need to be addressed. Not because I am itching to talk about a reality show, which I already hate, but because of something like other things I’ve experienced in my life that are connected, however tenuously.

It starts this way; way back in the 1990’s I got a second piercing in one ear. This was before I got a tattoo, but that’s another story. I was in my thirties, and a married adult, who had already had more exposure to the world and other cultures and lifestyles than either of my parents have to this day. My parents, I must add, are fundamentalist Baptists, just for connectivity. My dad’s response to this second piercing was that I was advertising for a same-sex relationship. Now, when either of my parents say things like this I revert to my fifteen-year old self, roll my eyes and say, “No I’m not.” But when I thought of it later, my unproductive use of sarcasm took over, and I thought that my response should have been, “Really. Did one of your many lesbian friends tell you that?” Because I know that his circle would not welcome a homosexual, and he might never have met one.

The same was true of both my parents and grandparents attempts to “teach” me what to expect from integrated schools. In high school, my black friends could come to the house on weekends, but they were not allowed to spend the night. These are people from the old south, who grew up with Jim Crow laws in rural Arkansas and Texas. They had never known any black people in their circles, and all they had to go on was what they heard from someone else.

This is true of them, and those like them, on so many levels that I’m a little surprised when anyone is surprised by the ignorant things that those of this ilk say. When I was against going to war in Iraq my mother said to me, “Well, I think it’s right, and so does everyone in my Sunday school.” I’m no longer surprised by this. She, and many others, have chosen to keep their circles very, very small because of their fear of what may be outside those well drawn borderlines. So, of course, there is typically one news channel that these folks watch, and that is enough because what they say on that channel is “true” according to their experience.

All that said, a minor celebrity named Phil Robertson, who attained stardom on a reality TV program called “Duck Dynasty” made his fifteen minutes of fame even greater by saying during an interview in a magazine that homosexuality leads to bestiality, and that blacks were happier during the pre-Civil Rights era. The thing to remember about Phil Robertson is that he is a small, southern Louisiana town boy, a fundamentalist, conservative Christian. While I realize that there are plenty of people of color in Louisiana, if you’ve ever watched Duck Dynasty, have you ever seen a black person in the circle this family runs in? I’m not certain I’ve ever even seen a black person in the school rooms of the Robertson grandchildren. Are any of them gay? It is entirely possible that Phil Robertson has never met a gay person. But I have. I have many gay friends, and have known many others. I remember Harvey Milk saying that if someone knows a person who is gay they would vote two to one for gay rights legislation (or at least that’s what Sean Penn said when he was playing Milk in the movie.)

I must say that not one of the gay people I know has ever engaged in bestiality or child abuse, which is another thing that conservatives like to accuse homosexuals of. But to someone who has never met a gay person (that they know of,) when someone they respect, such as a preacher, stands in the pulpit and equates such acts, they accept it without question; they have no other facts on which to base any opposing opinion. I remember an old bumper sticker/t-shirt/protest placard that said, “How Dare You Assume That I Am Heterosexual.” When I read that I thought, “Yeah. I would wear that.” I am heterosexual, but it is a major pet-peeve of mine for anyone to assume that they know anything about anything without actual knowledge of that subject.

Another incident that occurred this week that is “different, but same,” had to do with atheists. It was something called “What Atheists Believe,” and purported to know what atheists believe. I just got angry as I read it on Facebook, posted by a friend I’ve known for a long time is a believer. This thing claimed that atheists believe there are no consequences for our actions, we can do whatever we want. That atheists believe that materialism is great, and in fact is essentially all there is. Of course, I could go off on the entire, multi-billion dollar “gospel of prosperity,” and the very famous TV preachers who claim that your wealth is a sign that you have found favor with god, but that’s another story. I could also wax long on the many, many Christians I’ve known who claim it doesn’t matter what they do on earth because they are forgiven as a result of their faith. But that’s a rant for another day. What was clear about this drivel was that it was authored by someone who didn’t bother asking any atheists what they actually believe. I am not just an atheist, but I have made contact with atheist groups when I lived in Illinois, and continue talking to both believers and non-believers today. So I may be speaking from a place of knowledge when I say that the beliefs pronounced in this thing are essentially wrong. Not that there are no atheists who believe that there are no consequences for our actions, or atheists who are excessively materialistic. But on the whole, I find the atheists that I know to be very much in love with other humans, to the degree that some non-theists refer to themselves as “humanists.” Of course there are consequences for our actions. But they are now, and some are good, some are bad. I’d say Phil Robertson experienced some real time consequences for his expressions of ignorance this week when he was suspended indefinitely from his reality show for his comments. If I said things that embarrassed my boss I might also lose my job. If I offend people I care about, they get mad at me, and may cut me out of their lives. I don’t want to live in a world where the rewards for the good that I do are somewhere down the line, and all I can hope for on earth is suffering and living in a heavenly city with streets of gold after I die as a reward. In my conversations with other atheists, we talk about how all we have is now, and therefore we must make this life the best life we can. That means a life without hate. It means a life in which doing for others is its own reward. But most of all, what I took from this silly list of false assertions is that it is not helpful to assume that if someone doesn’t believe what I believe, that I know what they do believe. If anyone is interested in  what I believe as an atheist, just ask me. I am always up for a respectful conversation.

Musings For A Cozy Saturday with Sleet Outside

We just moved into a new house. Not only is our house new, our subdivision is new. Many of the houses on our block aren’t finished, or even started yet. But there are some touches that the builder has put around the homes, including ornamental trees in the front yards. The same type of trees in each front yard, Live Oak. Oaks are very popular in Texas, which is semi-okay because they are such gorgeous colors in the fall-what with their burnt red and orange leaves. I am not a fan of monoculture, but I do like oaks. I wondered the other day about one thing though; if a live oak dies, does it become a dead oak? Or just a dead live oak? I guess there’s always word play for us oxymorons.

Driving to work on Thursday, the day before they great ice storm of 2013 hit, there was a teeny-tiny spider on my windshield. I remembered the times that I took a walk in the woods, fascinated by the natural way, watching a large spider whose web stretched between two trees. It was big enough for us to see, but apparently invisible to the other insects flying around. They would become trapped, and we would watch the spider go to work. I couldn’t help wondering what the poor teensy spider ate. He was well attached to my windshield, but I couldn’t see a web in which to catch ever teensier insects. So what do they eat?

I’m a huge fan of the Texas drink, Margarita. And, if I say so myself, I make a damned good one. So last week I bought a bag of limes. Used a few last weekend, but haven’t had time since. So I looked in the bowl of limes this morning, and several of them had lost their green color. Now, I remember the George Burns/John Denver movie in which John Denver, a manager in a grocery store, had a moral conflict about waxing cucumbers and apples to make them look more appetizing to shoppers. I also remember my husband buying me some sunflowers when I was recovering from surgery; they were very unusually colored for sunflowers, but within a week those colors had drained into the water, and the sunflowers were just sort of whitewashed-looking. Did someone do that to those limes? Were they just colored bright green to make me buy them, only to fade within a week? I see so many home decor photos and TV programs that show glass jars of lemons and/or limes set out for decoration. Are they too just very fresh, and in a few days they will have no color?

I am an atheist. I was raised to be a fundamentalist Christian, but I am not. I try very hard to respect those who do believe, especially since that group includes so many people whom I love and greatly respect. I realize that there are times we all need some comfort to get us through a hard time, and for many people, that comfort comes from believing that there is a higher power who has a purpose for whatever we may go through while we are here. I was listening to music when I was getting ready for work one day last week, and heard a song by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Amos Lee. The song is called “Cup of Sorrow,” from his album Mission Bell. As I listened to the song, I realized that not only do people of faith believe that Jesus understands what they are going through, they take comfort in the belief that, no matter how hard their lives are, they aren’t suffering as much as Jesus did. I guess for them, there is comfort in that as well. At the same time, I recently met someone who held those kind of deep beliefs, but she had recently lost her boyfriend to pancreatic cancer, and she was having a very, very hard time overcoming her grief. She said to me, “We believed for a miracle, but he died anyway…” and I realized that this may be part of why she was having such a hard time with his death. To me, people die of pancreatic cancer. Period. But to her, her god let her down. I don’t hold out the unrealistic hope that miracles occur for those with deadly diseases; people die. People suffer. Life is suffering, as the Buddha said, and there are no protective miracles against that. So if it makes a person feel better to think that his suffering is less than what Jesus experienced, I guess…whatever gives you peace.

Lastly, I was watching a television program online yesterday which showed a scene of the main character in a restaurant on his 52nd birthday. The waitress was very friendly despite the character’s preoccupation with his destination. And it occurred to me that one of the arguments that the right uses against paying waiters/service workers a living wage just doesn’t fly. They love to say that these jobs are not meant to be “long term.” They are meant to be temporary, during school or youth. They subscribe to the notion that these are “unskilled” jobs, and once higher-value skills can be acquired, they should be, and then the person won’t need to work in such a low skill, low wage job. But this is another conservative straw man. There are many reasons that a person may need to work long term in a restaurant or retail establishment. Some people are just very good at that sort of work, and do it very well. They are the ones who make super tips in the dining room. They are the ones who get wonderful comments to the manager for giving good service at the retail store. They deserve a living wage. I’m guessing that some of the folks arguing against giving them that living wage are the most difficult to deal with getting their meals, or wanting a discount they aren’t entitled to. (See last week’s post.) Being a waiter or service worker is very hard work. Just like being a mechanic, or garbage man is very hard work. It is work that some people see themselves as superior to, but those people use these services regularly.  Since all the economic arguments proving that paying a higher wage to service workers would be the best stimulus our economy could hope for haven’t worked, this one may not either. But can I call bullshit on the argument that waiting tables is not skilled labor?